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Gulf War Hospital Records Available

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 1998 – Veterans and researchers may benefit from new federal assistance in obtaining hospital records from the Persian Gulf War.

Collaborating with the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Personnel Record Center and the Army, DoD announced Aug. 4 it will assist veterans in retrieving copies of their inpatient records.

Bernard Rostker, who heads DoD's Gulf War illness investigation, said the records could help veterans establish claims for VA health care. He said he's asked Rand Corp., a federal think tank, to propose a means of exploiting information contained in the records, for instance, possibly making data available to researchers in more than 100 ongoing projects to help them uncover new facts about the causes of the illnesses.

"Our goal is to inventory any known surviving record from the Gulf War and create a database with names of all U.S. military and coalition forces and civilians," Rostker said. The database will enable his office to retrieve records for all patients treated in military hospitals and, quite possibly, in hospitals of host nations, such as Saudi Arabia, where many U.S. service members received care.

Many veterans thought their Gulf War hospital records had been lost or destroyed, according to Mike Boyle, an investigator on Rostker's medical issues team. "The records were never destroyed or lost," he said, "but if veterans didn't know the name of the hospital that treated them, there was no way of finding their records."

Through travels and contacts with the VA and others, the DoD investigators found that much more was known about the records than they realized. "We found that the Army cataloged some 10,000 records and that most of the records could be accounted for," Rostker said. "We now have about 17,000 entries in the database, and we will facilitate veterans getting their records. All we need is a name and Social Security number."

If you're a Gulf War veteran no longer in the service, you can request a copy of your hospital record by calling the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses toll free at (800) 497-6261 to request a database search. You'll get a form back to sign and mail to the appropriate records center.

GulfLINK, DoD's Gulf War illness site on the World Wide Web (www.gulflink.osd.mil), provides a virtual history of the department's investigation. The site offers a running account of research, meetings and investigators' findings on specific events during the war.

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