Gulf War Web Site
Pitts & Associates
Attorneys at Law
Gulf Freeway, Suite 117
Houston, Texas 77017-6528
(713) 910-0594 (Fax)
April 9, 2002
Dear Gulf War Veteran Client:
National Gulf War Veteran Conference May 3-5, 2002
The National Gulf War Resource Center, a coalition of grassroots groups advocating for research, compensation, and treatment for Gulf War vets who have been ill since the war, invites you to attend their Seventh Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
The three day conference, May 3, 4, and 5, 2002 will be held at the Holiday Inn-Airport North, near Atlanta airport. Government and independent scientists, including the leading researcher, Robert Haley, M.D., will present information on recent research into Gulf War Illness. I will also speak on the legal status, and answer questions. V.A. and Pentagon officials will attend to report on various programs which may provide assistance to Gulf vets.
Mr. Ross Perot, former Presidential candidate, veteran's advocate and contributor of significant amounts of money and time to Gulf War Illness research from the beginning through today, will be keynote speaker at the NGWRC's annual banquet on May 4.
A special room rate of $69 per night is available to call conference participants. Call (404) 762-8411 to reserve, and mention "NGWRC conference" to obtain this rate (free airport shuttle).
For general information on the conference call: 800-882-1315, ext. 162 or go to www.ngwrc.org I recommend attending the conference if you have a chance to.
Veterans Administration Recognizes ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease)
as Caused by Gulf War Exposure
Recently, statistics showed that there is an elevated number of Gulf War veterans with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), compared to nondeployed service members during the Gulf War period. In the wake of this research, the new Secretary of the Veterans Administration, Anthony Principi, decided to grant service connection disability as a result of Gulf War exposures, to Gulf War Veterans with ALS. This decision will directly help four of your named co-plaintiffs, in this lawsuit, Major Michael Donnelly, Major Randy Herbert, Sergeant Thomas Oliver and Sergeant Montana Rickett, Jr. The March, 2002 edition of VFW Magazine, and an upcoming edition of People magazine, profiled Major Donnelly and this recent development.
V.A. Secretary Creates the Research Advisory Committee on
Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses
Though a 12-member Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses was authorized by law on November 11, 1998, the Clinton administration never appointed anyone to it. On January 23, 2002, V.A. Secretary Principi announced the formation of the committee. The shall "provide advice and make recommendations to the V.A. Secretary on proposed research studies, research plans and research strategies." The membership of the committee and its expert panal are as follows:
James H. Binns, Jr., Chairman,
Dr. Nicola Cherry, Professor of Public Health Sciences at the University of Alberta,
Dr. Beatrice Golomb, assistant professor of medicine at the University of California at San Diego,
Dr. Robert Haley, chief of epidemiology division of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas,
Marguerite Knox, nurse practitioner, Hopkins, SC
Dr. William J. Meggs, chief of the division of toxicology of the East Carolina University School of Medicine,
Jeack Melling, Ph.D., director of the Karl Landsteiner Institute for Vaccine Development in Vieanna, Austria,
Dr. Pierre Pellier, Pellie, vice president, neurosciences, global medical affairs, with GlaxoSmithKline, Inc.,
Lea Steele, Ph.D., director, Kansas Persian Gulf War Veterans Health Initiative and former epidemiologist with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Joel C. Graves, an Army Gulf War veteran from Washington state,
Stephen L. Robinson, executive director of the National Gulf War Resources Center, Silver Spring, MD,
Steve Smithson, assistant director of the Gulf War Task Force for the American Legion, Indianapolis, Indiana
The Expert Panel:
Dr. Ira B. Black, chairman, department of neuroscience and cell biology at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, NJ,
Dr. Joseph T. Coyle, Eben S. Draper professor of psychiatry and neuroscience, Harvard Medical School, Belmont, Mass.
Dr. Floyd E. Bloom, chair, department of neuropharmacology, Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, Calif.,
Dr. Eugene Johnson, professor, department of Neurology, Washington University, St. Louis, MO
Dr. Marsel Mesulam, director, The Cognitative Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago,
James J. Tuite, III, chief operating officer, Chronix Biomedical, Inc., Benicia, Calif.,
Dr. Bailus Walker, Jr., professor of evironmental and occupational medicine, Howard University, Washington, DC
The following is a quotation from the March 2002 VFW Magazine about the committee:
Though originally established by Public Law 105-368 in 1998, the committee was never staffed because of "bureaucratic foot-dragging," according to a VFW source. One early theory from the Pentagon attributed the cause of the Gulf War illnesses to stress. Current committee members believe exposures to chemical warfare agents, pesticdes or smoke from oil wells are a more plausible explanation.
"The Clinton Administration was very happy to cover this up with PR," said Dr. Robert Haley, who has extensively studied Gulf War ailments. "The Bush Administration is going to take this on. They've brought in some guys with some real guts."
V.A. Investigates Gulf Veteran Death Rates
in Relation to Change in Khamisiyah Chemical Agent Plume Maps
About 100,000 Gulf veterans received letters in 1997 or 1998 from the OSAGWI department of the Pentagon saying that they were within the nerve gas plume from the Khamisiyah explosions. In 2000, the OSAGWI department of the Pentagon said a revised computer model showed the vapor cloud went a little differently than they first calculated. New letters went out. About 34,000 who received the previous letter were told it was believed that they were not in the cloud. About 34,000 new veterans were told that they might have been in this cloud. About 65,000 were told they were still thought to be have been in the cloud.
Recently, a V.A. analysis showed puzzling facts: among the 65,000, the death rate was 3.38 per 1,000. Among the 34,000 added to the cloud projection in 2000, the death rate was 3.03 per 1,000. Among the 34,000 dropped from the cloud projection in 2000, the death rate was 29.37 per 1,000, however roughly ten (10) times that of the 34,000 added by shifting the nerve gas cloud coverage. This has given rise to some questions and skepticism over the motivation for shifting the nerve gas cloud's alleged coverage in 2000. The V.A. has promised to investigate the matter further.
V.A. Releases Gulf Veteran Cancer Statistics
The V.A. recently released Gulf War veterans' cancer diagnosis statistics, at my request. For the 696,759 deployed to the Gulf area between August 2, 1990 and July 31, 1991, there have been 2,208 individuals diagnosed with cancer, 1,843 of which were held to be service connected and 527 held to be non-service connected. These are only statistics from the V.A. system, and do not include Gulf War veterans who have been treated for cancer in active military or civilian medical facilities since the war. If you, or any other Gulf veteran that ou know of, have been treated for any form of cancer only in civilian or active military medical facility, and never used a V.A. medical facility, please contact my office and let us know about it, so that we can get some idea of the frequency of that happening.
I am also asking the V.A. to refine the cancer diagnosis statistics to those deployed between January 17, 1991 and March 30, 1991, and to obtain a number of the total deployed during that time. This was the period in which the low-level mustard gas (and nerve gas) fallout from the air campaign bombings and post-war detonation of Iraqi statistics for service members that were not deployed, to compare the frequency.
Statistics for Miscarriage and Birth Depfects
Among Gulf War Veterans' Families Published
The October, 2001 edition of Annals of Epidemiology published a V.A. study of pregnancy outcomes of a sample of 15,000 Gulf War veterans, from four military branches and three unit components (active, reserve, and National Guard), compared to those of 15,000 non-Gulf War veteran controls. The results showed that male Gulf War veterans reported a significantly higher rate of miscarriage among their wives' pregnancies. The ratio of incidence was 1.62 deployed, compared to 1.00 for non-deployed.
Both men and women deplyed to the Gulf theater also reported significant excesses of birth defects among their liveborn infants. The rate in the subset of "moderate to severe" birth defects was 1.78 for deployed males and 2.80 for deployed females, compared to 1.00 for non-deployed veterans. Thankfully, no significant differences were found by deployment status for stillbirths, pre-term deliveries or infant mortality.
In regard to the on-going litigation, please note that mustard gas, besides being a carcinogen, is also a chemical associated with causing birth defects.
Medical Studies of Depleted Uranium in the Balkans
Show no Medical Impact
A number of NATO countries have performed medical screenings of their veterans from the wa in the Balkans. Italy, in particular, was particularly concerned about media reports that initially tried to link an apparent rise in the incidence of leukemia in its Balkan veterans to exposure to depleted uranium. After an extensive scientific study, the Italian government concluded that the incidence of leukemia was not as high in Balkan veterans as it was in the general population. Other NATO countries have medically screened their veterans, and, so far, none has reported elevated uranium levels in their soldier's urine, or any negative health consequences attributed to depleted uranium exposure.
As depleted uranium is discounted, the only demonstrable wide-spread exposure in the Gulf War to a carcinogen was mustard gas, where exposure came from fallout from the air campaign, and destruction of Iraqi ammunition dumps after the war.
Recently Enacted Law Broadening Gulf War
Illness Disability Coverage by the V.A.
In a major victory for Gulf War veterans, Public Law 107-103 (the Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act of 2001) was signed into law by President bush on December 27, 2001. Sections 202 and 203 are the relevant sections, and they may be found the Congressional website: www.Thomas.gov.
The law extends the presumptive period for making a claim for disabilities for ten years, to December 31, 2011. The law goes on to list the symptoms of Gulf War Illness identified by medical research. It states: SIGNS OR SYMPTOMS THAT MAY INDICATE UNDIAGNOSED ILLNESSESS - (1) Such section is further amended by adding at the end of the following new subsection: (A) For purposes of this section, signs or symptoms that may be a manifestation of an undiagnosed illness or a chronic multisymptom illness include the following:
Unexplained rashes or other dermatological signs or symptoms
Neurological signs and symptoms
Neuropsychological signs or sypmtoms
Signs or symptoms involving the upper or lower respiratory system
Gastrointestinal signs or symptoms
Cardiovascular signs or sypmtoms
Abnormal weight loss
The legislative history language of the compromise agreement is also instructive:
In selecting this language, it is the intent of the Committee to ensure eligibility for chronically disabled Gulf War veterans not withstanding a diagnostic label by a clinician in the absence of conclusive pathophysiology or etiology. The compromise agreement's definition encompasses a virety of unexplained clinical conditions, characterized by overlapping symptoms and signs, that share features such as fatigue, pain disability out of proportion to physical findings, and inconsistent demonstration of laboratory abnormalities.
In evaluating chronic multisymptom illnesses, the Committees expect that VA will develop a schedule for rating disabilities based on severity of symptoms and the degree to which these impair a veteran's ability to obtain and retain substantially gainful employment. The ratings schedule already established by VA in section 4.88b of 38 CFR (6353) for chronic fatigue syndrome bases the degree of disability on the veteran's incapacitation rather than specific medical findings. This schedule can be used as a model for rating disabilities stemming from chronic multisymptom illnesses in general.
The long and short of this new law is that if you have been seriously from Gulf War Illness symptoms, and you were previously turned away for compensation for this disability by the V.A., you should reapply under this new law.
Any claim that you have with the V.A. is separate and apart and unaffected by: 1) you claim against the Iraqi funds, when congress passes implementing legislation; and 2) any recovery that you may eventually obtain through the litigation against the bio/chem suppliers to Iraq.
Because of constrains of time with other responsibilities, my law firm is not representing individuals in their V.A. claims. I generally recommend that you contact you local veterans' service organizations for their advice and assistance regarding your claim, and obtaining legal counsel in your area.
Iraqi Asset Claim Status
Senator Helms is no longer Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He will be leaving the Committee entirely when he retires at the end of this year.
Congressman Lloyd Doggett filed and championed the Gulf War Veterans' Iraqi Claims Protection Act of 1999 (H.R. 618 in the 106th Congress), which would allow Gulf War veterans who have been ill since the war to file claims with the Justice Department's Foreign Claims Settlement Commission against the Iraqi funds that was frozen when it invaded Kuwait in August, 1990. the funds that are subject to US jurisdiction are now about $1.7 billion. On July 21, 1999, Congressman Doggett's bill passed the House of Representatives unanimously as an amendment to H.R. 2415, but stalled in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Helms killed the bill in the Senate by not letting it out of his Committee.
About 158 former hostages in Iraq have also filed suit in District Court in D.C. recently. They are seeking to quantify their damages, and to also make a claim against the frozen Iraqi assets.
Congressman Doggett will be resubmitting the bill to Congress, before the Gulf veterans' convention next month. With the change in the Senate, the matter will hopefully be passed and signed into law this year. Once that is done the Justice Department will set up a claims process, which we will handle with your help. The Justice Department would assign a value to each veteran's case based on the individual facts. The Foreign Claims Settlement Commission has estimated that the claims process will take about two years from the time that they get the money, before checks could start going out.
Please Send Letters of Appreciation
If you have the opportunity, it would be helpful if you would write a couple of thank you letters. You do not need to spend much time on them, but a show of support and thanks can help the morale and focus of those who deal with the pressure of contrary political currents in D.C.
The first one should go to V.A. Secretary Principi, Honorable Anthony J. Principi, Office of the Secretary [Post Code 00], The Department of Veteran Affairs, 810 Vermont Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20420, thanking him for covering the Gulf vets with ALS, for appointing the Research Advisory committee, and for investigating and releasing information that is important to Gulf War veterans. You might want to send a copy of it to his boss, President Bush.
The second one should go to Congressman Lloyd Doggett, The Honorable Lloyd Doggett, Member of Congress, House Office Buildings, Washington, DC 20515, for continuing to fight for veterans so they are not excluded from being able to make a claim against the frozen Iraqi assets. With his efforts and success in Congress so far, the money would have long since gone to the tobacco companies and other corporations (including some chemical weapons supplier defendants in the lawsuit, who Iraq owes money to), and disabled veterans would have been completely excluded from making claims.
Litigation Against the Bio/Chem Suppliers
It is reasonably anticipated that significant progress will be made soon in obtaining evidence of the defendants' actions in regard to supplying Iraq. More details will be provided in my next report to you.
This status report follows the last one of September 19, 2001. I shall write to you again before the next annual National Gulf War Veteran Resource Center Conference, unless there are developments that need your response before then.
With best regards and best wishes, I remain
Very truly yours,
PITTS & ASSOCIATES
Gary B. Pitts
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