The Office of the Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Gulf War illnesses is providing a new service to assist Gulf War veterans obtain copies of their inpatient records from hospitals deployed to the Persian Gulf.
Although theater hospital records were never "lost," many veterans were unable to obtain copies of their inpatient records from the Gulf War. Records of hospitalizations in the war were maintained with the hospital and filed with the National Personnel Records Center after the war. Consequently, veterans had to know the name of the facility that treated them in order to request the record either from the hospital or from the archives.
In an effort to provide an important service to veterans, members of the office of the special assistant personally visited the Records Center and sorted through hundreds of boxes and thousands of documents to identify those belonging to Gulf War veterans.
Currently, 10,500 inpatient treatment records from Gulf War Army facilities have been identified and inventoried. This equates to 70 percent of their Gulf War inpatient records. Working closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Personnel Records Center, and the Department of the Army, the office of the special assistant has also created a database to cross-reference people and social security numbers with hospital records stored in the National Personnel Records Center. The office of the special assistant will continue to identify locations of Army hospital records as well as conduct a similar inventory of the Air Force and Navy hospital records.
The first step in obtaining copies of records is for the veteran to call the office of the special assistant at 1-800-497-6261 for a data search. The veteran will be given specific information that he or she will need to include in the request form that will be mailed to them following the telephone call. A signature of the veteran, or next of kin if the veteran is deceased, is required to obtain copies of hospital treatment records.
This data will also be provided to the Department of Veterans Affairs to be used to help document veterans claims.
"Although we haven't yet identified the locations of all medical records, we believe this is an important service for our veterans," said Dr. Bernard Rostker, the Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Gulf War Illnesses.
Military personnel commonly have two kinds of medical records. The individual health record accompanies the service member throughout his/her military career while the inpatient hospital treatment record is created by the admitting hospital and documents all care received while a patient in that hospital. After being discharged from a military hospital, normally, a summary of the care received is also filed with the patient's individual health record.
However, in a dynamic environment such as a war zone, the service member might receive treatment in a number of facilities. Additionally, the individual health record may be filed with the member's unit and not accompany him or her to the hospital. Consequently, in-patient records may never make it to the member's records. Inpatient records were filed with the last hospital providing care for the patient and eventually forwarded to the Records Center for archiving.
Individual health records of former service members are archived in two locations. The VA, 1-800-827-1000, maintains records for Army veterans discharged after 1992; and Air Force, Marine, and Navy veterans discharged after 1994. For all other records, veterans can write to the National Personnel Records Center, 97000 Page Ave., St. Louis, MO 63132.
For more information on this or other Gulf War illnesses issues, see GulfLINK, an interactive Internet side, at http://www/gulflink.osd.mil.