Thursday, December 21, 2017

Gulf war syndrome and ALS

One of the terrible things done to veterans of the first Gulf war was the coverup of Gulf war syndrome, claiming no disease here, folks, just move on.

after many years, the VA made it a diagnosis, so now Vets can get help from them.

but still, most claiming this disease are being denied disability benefits.

From 2010 to 2015, the VA approved 17 percent of claims – or 18,000 of 102,000 -- for health care and disability compensation for veterans suffering from Gulf War Illness, which is an umbrella term for certain medical conditions common in some of the 1 million servicemembers who deployed to Southwest Asia in the past 27 years. 
Besides claims getting denied more often, veterans seeking benefits for Gulf War illness are having to wait four months longer on average to hear back from the VA, the GAO found.
There’s confusion among VA staff about how to handle the claims, the report states. The Government Accountability Office also found VA medical examiners, who are key in providing information for veterans’ claims, lacked training on Gulf War illness. As of February, 90 percent of medical examiners had not been trained on how to conduct exams for Gulf War illness. The VA made the training optional. 
However, the VA attributes the low approval ratings to the complexity of Gulf War illness, thought to be caused by toxic exposure. There’s not a single definition for Gulf War illness, which includes a cluster of different conditions, as well as nine infectious diseases.

 toxic exposures? Some conspiracy sites claim heavy metal poisoning from non radioactive uranium, others to the experimental anthrax vaccine. See report here.

, but docs who served there claimed it was due to exposure to Saddam's nerve gas in low doses that interacted with an anti nerve gas prevention used by the soldiers, causing an autoimmune disease. Most soldiers know of scuds exploding or times when they were destroying Saddam's weapons, and the nerve gas alarms went off, yet no symptoms occured: meaning it was detecting low levels of gas that meant you didn't have to put on your protective gear, or else a machine malfunction.

Veterans affair office has this article about the controversy.

the only "good" news in all of this is the actual rate of the disease is low:

Among approximately 2.5 million eligible military personnel, 107 confirmed cases of ALS were identified for an overall occurrence of 0.43 per 100,000 persons per year. 

CDC article on ALS. They are establishing a registry for patients, to help figure out the cause and what treatments would help.

ALS disproportionately affects whites, males, and persons aged 60–69 years (9); the reasons for the increased incidence among whites and males is unknown (9). Military veterans, particularly men, are at higher risk for developing ALS than are those who have not served (10). Veterans who served in the first Gulf War were twice as likely to develop ALS as were veterans who served during the same period but were not deployed to the Gulf (11). The reason for the increased risk among veterans is not known, but it might be related to selective environmental exposures (9,10).

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