For Your Benefit
For and about Hawaii's military Sunday, July 7, 2002

See also: In The Military

Gulf vets get care for any
chemical agent exposure

Question: What has the Department of Veterans Affairs been doing for Gulf War veterans exposed to chemical warfare agents?

Answer: The VA has listened to veterans who expressed concern about exposure to chemical warfare agents in the Gulf War and always acknowledged the possibility that Gulf War veterans were exposed to chemical warfare agents.

In 1996, VA learned that Gulf War participants who were involved in the demolition of an Iraqi ammunition storage facility in southern Iraq might have been exposed to nerve agents sarin and cyclosarin.

Studies indicated that although no U.S. personnel experienced noticeable health effects from the release of these chemical agents, many U.S. troops might have been exposed to very low levels of the agents.

Unfortunately, there is no valid diagnostic test to identify chemical warfare agent exposure that occurred years ago. Although the technology to do this does not now exist, research is continuing with the chemical exposure area.

Gulf War veterans with health problems possibly related to chemical exposures are provided needed care, without charge to them, at VA medical centers.

For more information, contact the Spark M. Matsunaga Ambulatory Care Center at 433-0600.

Gulf War veterans and their families also have easy access to Gulf War-related medical research information on an internet site called Medsearch (

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have combined their resources to create this one-stop shop of research information relating to the illnesses of some Gulf War veterans.

Medsearch is user-friendly designed to serve the needs of both the layperson and the researcher.

The site is indexed with plain language headings and also contains more specific data for scientists.

The site will be updated frequently to ensure that it contains the most recent and complete information available.

The local VA Web site at provides additional information in its Frequently Asked Questions column under announcements about the Gulf War Registry and access to health care.

While no definitive causes for the unexplained symptoms experienced by some veterans have been identified, more than $213 million has gone into federal research. More than 40 percent of this research is still on going to search for the cause and more effective treatments of these illnesses.

If you have questions about your benefits as a veteran,
call Fred Ballard at the Veterans Affairs at 433-0049
or the Star-Bulletin at 529-4747.

Gregg K. Kakesako, who covers military affairs for the Star-Bulletin,
can be reached by phone at 294-4075
or by e-mail at

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