The Department of Veterans Affairs commissioned the Institute of Medicine to conduct the review, and the committee’s report is expected to help lay the foundation for future treatments and benefits for thousands of Gulf War veterans.
The VA previously determined approximately 250,000 U.S. troops who deployed to Kuwait and Iraq in 1990 and 1991 suffer from Gulf War illness, a collection of symptoms that often includes gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.
The committee’s membership became a flashpoint when Binns, a former Department of Defense policy official, and four colleagues charged that the Institute of Medicine’s new committee lacks a broad spectrum of perspectives.
The focal point of the matter is the question of what causes Gulf War illness: psychiatric triggers, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, or environmental triggers, such as exposure to toxins from chemical weapons and smoke from oil-well fires.
Eight of the 16 proposed members of the committee already are on record supporting the idea that Gulf War illness is caused by psychiatric triggers, according to an analysis by Binns and his colleagues, who are current or former members of a VA advisory committee on Gulf War illness.
The other eight members of the Institute of Medicine committee are neutral, according to their analysis.
“Conspicuously absent from the committee are any doctors or scientists who have studied Gulf War health in the past decade,” they wrote to Institute of Medicine President Victor Dzau on Nov. 28.