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American Legion Anticipates Institute of Medicine Report on Gulf War Veterans

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Legion welcomes the findings of an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on Deployment Related Stress scheduled to be released on Nov 14.

"In view of the serious and widespread impact of stress on the health of military personnel who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, this focus on the health effects of stress is timely and important," said Marty Conatser, national commander of the 2.7 million-member American Legion. "However, it is equally important to distinguish between current deployments and the 1991 Gulf War."

The environmental conditions of the 1991 Gulf War were different from other wars, including current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Troops serving in the current Iraq war have been subject to long deployments, and many have experienced serious injuries and psychological trauma. A significant number have been affected by long-term psychological problems, most prominently post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In contrast, the 1991 Gulf War was brief -- just 100 hours of ground fighting -- with remarkably few casualties. Most troops were not in combat areas and did not experience serious trauma. As a result, relatively few were affected by PTSD or other psychiatric conditions.

The 1991 Gulf War gave rise to a different type of health problem, however. About 25 percent of Gulf War veterans have been affected by the condition known as Gulf War veterans' illness. It is a complex of multiple physical symptoms -- typically including chronic headaches, memory problems, widespread pain, and other abnormalities -- that cannot be explained by familiar diagnoses. This condition appears to be unique to Gulf War service; it has not been documented in studies of veterans who served in Bosnia or the current Iraq War.

Consistent findings from multiple research studies indicate that Gulf War illness is not the result of combat or psychological factors, as some have stated. Evidence points, instead, to hazardous substances encountered by troops during the 1991 Gulf War. These include, most prominently, a group of chemical neurotoxins to which many veterans were exposed.

According to Dr. Lea Steele, Scientific Director of the federal Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, "In years past, it was common for government officials and healthcare providers to speculate that Gulf War veterans' illness was caused by stress. This view has not been supported by the many studies that have now assessed Gulf War veterans' illness in relation to events of the 1991 Gulf War. Our committee's detailed review of these studies found no connection between combat and Gulf War veterans' illness, and that Gulf War veterans' illness was not caused by psychological stress. We do know that in some situations, psychological trauma and stress can cause long-term problems. But the data are very clear that this does not explain Gulf War veterans' illness."

The American Legion was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and patriotic youth programs. The Legion's 2.7 million wartime veterans work for the betterment of their communities through more than 14,000 posts across the nation.

SOURCE American Legion
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