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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 242-99
May 19, 1999

DOD'S GULF WAR ILLNESSES OFFICE RELEASES 2ND ANNUAL REPORT

The Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses released today its second annual report detailing the office's operational goals and accomplishments in 1998.

"Our second year was a busy one," said Bernard Rostker, the special assistant for Gulf War illnesses. "In addition to following hundreds of investigative leads and placing multiple reports in development, we released four case narratives and two environmental exposure reports covering topics ranging from depleted uranium and oil well fires to whether chemical warfare agents had been found in a storage tank at a Kuwaiti girls' school."

The report is divided into six sections. Rostker provides a review of the events that led to the establishment of the office and a brief summation of the first year's efforts. A second section provides a summary of the activities of the second year and recaps the findings of the investigations completed.

In addition to focusing on possible exposure issues, the team continued to provide direct assistance to veterans and advanced its outreach programs to improve dialogue between DoD and our veterans.

"The men and women who were there on the scene are the best sources of information for our investigations," said Rostker, "so when the number of inquiries we received through the hotline declined, we began initiating contacts. We continue to maintain an open door policy with the media, veterans' groups, Congressional staff members and the newly established Presidential Special Oversight Board. Beginning in March, we expanded our outreach efforts to include the 'total force' - Gulf War veterans, those on active duty, serving in the National Guard and Reserve, retired and separated service members, DoD civilians, family members and concerned citizens - at military installations."

One important advance in veterans' assistance highlighted in the report was the process developed for helping veterans identify and locate their health records. Rostker's team helped veterans locate approximately 10,500 missing hospital records from the Gulf War that may provide important documentation to veterans filing claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Rostker says that as he leads the team into its third year of operation, he will increase the focus on lessons learned while continuing the emphasis on communication, including additional installation visits.

"While we continue to develop and maintain the world's premier military force, we must also carefully consider the consequences of today's actions on the long-term health of our service members," said Rostker. "And though we have not found anything that links Gulf War illness to one specific exposure or incident, we proceed to investigate and leave no stone unturned."

The complete annual report is available on GulfLINK, DoD's Internet website, at http://www.gulflink.osd.mil.

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