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Opening Statement of Hon. Phil Hare, a Representative in Congress from the State of Illinois

The Subcommittee on Health will come to order.  I would like to thank everyone for coming today.

Regrettably, Mr. Michaud, the Subcommittee Chairman had an emergency and is unable to be here today.

During this hearing today, the Subcommittee will examine Gulf War exposures of veterans, the incidence of ALS among Gulf War veterans and most importantly, where is the VA in conducting continuing research on Gulf War One exposures and what are they finding out about the current exposures in OEF/OIF veterans. 

Many of the veterans who served in the Gulf War were exposed to a variety of potentially toxic substances during their deployments. 

According the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses more than sixteen years after the end of Operation Desert Storm, a substantial proportion of veterans continue to experience chronic and often debilitating conditions characterized by persistent headaches, cognitive problems, somatic pain, fatigue, gastrointestinal difficulties, respiratory conditions, and skin abnormalities. 

The Department of Defense and VA together have spent $260 million on Gulf War illness research.  While there have been numerous studies and much research conducted on Gulf War Illness, there are still many unanswered questions.  

Another aspect of Gulf War One service is ALS.  ALS is a progressive and nearly always fatal disease that affects a person’s nervous system.  According to the Institute of Medicine’s Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in Veterans, Review of the Scientific Literature, there is limited and suggestive evidence of an association between military service and developing ALS. 

Additionally, in a study sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2003, researchers identified that the incidence of ALS in veterans deployed to the Gulf was twice as high as the incidence of the disease among those who did not go to the Gulf.

I look forward to hearing from our panelists on these very important issues.