Dear Chairman Mitchell and Members of the Committee,
I feel I need to write this letter as a follow up to the Committee meeting of May 19 2009, dealing with Gulf War illness.
My testimony dealt with problems I have had for the last few years and problems that veterans themselves have had, too. The testimony focused on my health issues. I went into detail on how I became extremely ill in the Gulf War. I talked about how my abilities to think, to rationalize and how it has changed as well as how my playing chess has diminished greatly since the war.
One point I really wanted to bring out to the committee was how hard it was for Gulf War veterans in Topeka Kansas to get on the Gulf War registry. I had experienced much difficulties getting on the registry and on getting any information for veterans about getting on the registry in Topeka. This was unacceptable for me and it should be unacceptable to the director of the VA here in Topeka and the secretary of Veterans Affairs. Veterans should have clear instructions as on how to get on the registry and who to contact. After 6 months, there still are no signs anywhere in the VA that will direct veterans of the Gulf War as to where to go for the registry or even any information that there is a registry available to them for their undiagnosed health issues.
I was greatly upset over the fact that the Department of Defense still denies that veterans have became ill while in the Gulf region due to nerve agents. Even after my testimony about how I became ill and the symptoms that I had addressed which are the same symptoms in the RAID report for exposures to Saran and gas or overdosing of the PB pills. Since I was no longer taken the PB pills for at least a month we could rule out that. That would mean that my illnesses had to have been from the low-level exposure of sarin gas and/or the insect repellents we used. When the Department of Defense person was asked about my problems his reply simply was well it is too late to determine what really happened to Mr. Bunker. Simple logic is easy to look at as determining what happened to me yet the Department of Defense still refuses to acknowledge that veterans have become ill because of the low-level exposures of sarin gas. This approach does more to block efforts of coming up with treatment processes for the veterans than anything else does.
Veterans are sure that between the nerve agent pills, the nerve agent itself, and the pesticides used along with other toxins that were exposed to that greatly led to the problems that they are facing known as Gulf War Illnesses (GWI). It is time to set aside the denials or the misinformation and work to solve the issue at hand. What the National Gulf War Resource Center wants to express with this issue.
It is now time for the Department of Defense, the Department of the Veterans Administration and the Institute of Medicine to all work together to find treatments that will help veterans of the Gulf War live the more productive life and to relieve the pain that we are having due to undiagnosed illness.
There have been many problems with the IOM over the years. I feel one of the problems that the IOM had was the directions given to them by the VA. The IOM in all of its reports states how they are following the same protocol as for Agent Orange. The problem with this is that the criteria set before them for Agent Orange said that the evidence had to be beyond reasonable doubt. Better yet the evidence had to be overwhelmingly proving that the illnesses were caused by Agent Orange. This took away any benefit of the doubt that the Vietnam veterans have when they dealt with their agent orange illnesses.
This same mentality is leading to the problems that Gulf War veterans and researchers are having on getting illnesses service-connected due to undiagnosed illnesses and their service in the war.
Since the Department of Defense keeps saying that nobody was exposed or no illnesses can be attributed to Sarin and gas, then IOM may never find any problems within the Gulf War community for the undiagnosed illness. The IOM and all researchers should use the modeling that was done by Dr. Lea Steele when she did the Kansas study. This study is well known by everybody and her modeling has since been used by many other researchers. Because of her work and attentions to details and leaving nothing for granted, she has shown that Gulf War veterans are ill at a higher rate and that the rate of the illness among the veterans group is determined by where and when a soldier was.
The National Gulf War Resource Center calls on the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the IOM all to start working at finding a treatment for the problems that veteran of the Gulf War are having. They need to look at the possibility that more likely than not a lot of the veterans did suffer from Sarin nerve agent poisoning even though medical doctors did not write it in medical records or believe it to be happening. Many of the problems as to why this was not done were that the higher headquarters could not believe that after the end of the war veterans would have been exposed to Sarin nerve gas. However, this was highly probable. It was later proven a fact that we blew up stockpiles of ammunition within bunkers; not knowing that some of those types or rounds were sarin and mustard gas that were actually blown up.
By considering this as a hypothesis while looking into the illnesses, a better picture will emerge. We need to look at every possible cause and effect that is causing the illness of the war that these veterans served. Also by looking at the pictures in this fashion, we may have a better probability at finding a treatment for these veterans. We may also develop a good treatment for if ever we suffer a terrorist attack like that which happened in the Tokyo subway bombing.
James J. Bunker