Monday, February 25, 2008

Congressional Briefing Examines Multiple Sclerosis Among Veterans

Veterans Affairs Neurologist Presents Findings on Increased Risk

Two U.S. veterans living with multiple sclerosis and a neurologist with the Veterans Affairs MS Center of Excellence testified at a briefing on Thursday, February 21, on Capitol Hill. Legislators and staff gathered to examine the increased prevalence of the disease among U.S. veterans and explore the need for increased federal investment in MS research.

New evidence shows a potential link between the incidence of multiple sclerosis and combat service. A recent study in the Annals of Neurology identified 5,345 cases of MS among U.S. veterans that were deemed "service-connected." The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, in cooperation with Congressmen Russ Carnahan (MO) and Michael Burgess, M.D. (TX), co-chairs of the Congressional Multiple Sclerosis Caucus, hosted the briefing.

Dr. Mitch Wallin, an Associate Professor of Neurology at Georgetown University School of Medicine and Associate Director of Clinical Care at the Department of Veterans Affairs MS Center of Excellence-East in Baltimore, shared his experience treating members of the U.S. military living the disease and his findings on the increased risk of MS among veterans.

Dr. David Gustavison is a U.S Army Medical Corps veteran who served in the Gulf War and lives with MS. Dr. Gustavison shared his perspective as a medical doctor with a clear understanding of the disease. (In the photo below, Dr. Gustavison speaks during the briefing.)


“I believe there is a relationship between military service and MS,” Dr. Gustavison said. “Myself and three other physicians in the same command were diagnosed with MS in approximately a two-year time period. Two of us were deployed to the Gulf. All three had the same pre-deployment vaccinations. And all three worked with the same command and visited the same installations. I have had symptoms of MS since 1994.”

Bob Wolz also shared his story of life with multiple sclerosis. He is a U.S. Army veteran who served in the Gulf War and considers MS a lingering wound from his first tour of duty. “I was exposed to something,” Bob said. (In photo above right, Bob meets with a staffer in the office of Senator Patty Murray.)

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is pursuing a noncompetitive $15 million appropriation specifically for MS research in the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) at the Department of Defense. That funding is allocated under the annual Defense appropriations bill.

40 comments:

199th Recon Vietnam said...

In September 2005, neurologists at a VA hospital diagnosed that I, a Vietnam combat veteran with PTSD, have Multiple Sclerosis.
I was daily exposed to "Agent Orange" and have Axonal Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy.

rgar said...

I have three tours in Vietnam, I have M S. I see no connection with combat and M S maybe the good doctor is doing a bit of job security with his money raising talks.And I think it best to leave the V A out of this and give that money to an decent organization instead of that money pit that is full of self serving otherwise unemployable unprofessionals.

Anonymous said...

My brother passed away last week from effects of MS. He was a Vietnam vet, helicopter mechanic and flew drums of agent orange to where it was needed, and went into enemy territory on multiple occasions to retrieve parts from downed helicopters. I am still fighting to get him service connected, for the sake of his young daughter. Keep fighting this injustice.

Cazmir said...

I am the daughter of an Air Force officer. I and both my siblings have MS. No one in my entire family ever had MS before. Our family history goes back to the late 1600's. Not one of my dad's 3 brother's children have MS. I think there is a relationship between MS and the military immunizations. We were immunized by the military doctors. My oldest son now has MS. My middle son may have MS. Help by writing your congressman and having them spend the money on MS research. Thank you

Cazmir said...

I am just learning about this. I want you to know I am a daughter of an Air Force officer who was immunized in the military. All 3 of his children have MS as well as my first born son. The middle child is now starting to have related problems. I am very concerned about the relationship of MS and the military and don't think it is accidental. NO ONE in our family ever had MS before us 3 children. None of the other children of my dad's brothers have MS.

Anonymous said...

I served two different terms in the Army, Non combat related, I agree that there is reason to believe it has ALL to do with immunizations. My family has a history of the common cold...seriously. Now I have MS?
I went from Running 5 miles a day to hopefully making it around the block a couple times a weeks. I HATE what this disease has done to my body and my life and all who are closely involved. It didn't have to be this way....who should I thank? There is a big white elephant in the room....

Anonymous said...

I served two different terms in the Army, Non combat related, I agree that there is reason to believe it has ALL to do with immunizations. My family has a history of the common cold...seriously. Now I have MS?
I went from Running 5 miles aday to hopefully making it around the block a couple times a weeks. I HATE what this disease has done to my body and my life...who should I thank? There is a big white elephant in the room....

Anonymous said...

I find this all very interesting, I have been in the military now for over 20 years, immunized by the military for over seas assignment and just found out that I too now have MS, I am now concerned for my family who has been immunized by the military.

radjip said...

My father was diagnosed with MS in 1966 while serving in Vietnam, this past year he was tested to see if he was exposed to Agent Orange, he was. I was diagnosed with MS in January of 2004, 13 years after serving in Desert Storm, 12 years after end of service. I have submitted a claim for benefits with the VA, unfortunately it will probably be rejected because I am not within the 7 year window in which it waould fall under service related. I am in search of any information that may help me in my cause.
Thanks
Ruben Adjip

Anonymous said...

My husband served in the Air Force 1964-1968, altho he didn't go to VietNam but serviced vehicles on the flightline and worked on re-fueling maintenance vehicles during that time.
He was diagonosed with MS in 1998 after many visits to Chiropractors for back pain (which we later learned was the MS. He feels very strongly that the MS was caused by the many immunizations given to him by the Air Force.

R.Schilling

Dave A - Mtka, MN said...

I have MS and was exposed to extremely high levels of RF radiation for 12 months while in Diyarbakir, Turkey. Many men stationed there (no women were allowed on base for over 24 hours due to the radiation hazard) that I have contacted have experienced chronic illnesses. I developed MS 11 years after active duty and my claim with the VA was refused. Please respond to this post if you have suggestions as I've been totally disabled since 2001 and could sure use help from the VA.

Slamsady said...

I have been in the military over 20 years served over seas in 89 in 1990 I started having numbness etc, the military docs said to cut down on my caffine, then in 92 I had another event ruled out again this time as hyper tension, then again in 95 and 2005, ruled out as stress. In 2008 I had went in to start an artheritis reg they did an mri and said I have ms, it all started when I was immunized to go over seas, to finish my story I believe they are connected

Anonymous said...

I served combat tours to Afghanistan in 2002, Iraq in 2006, and back to Iraq in 2007. I lost vision in one eye temporarily in 2006 in Iraq and now have been found to have white matter lesions. I've been diagnosed with intention tremor and am waiting on a diagnosis of MS. I think it could be related to either a "bad batch" of inoculations received in 1979 in the Army or an accidental "extra inoculation" of Hep B in 2005.

Anonymous said...

Dave,

I too went to Diyarbakir, Turkey in 03. I am an Army vet 2000-2004. I have MS... no history of it in my family. Thought everyone's comments on the children frighting.. i hope I don't give it to my son...
Trying to get my condition on service related but doubt it, only had symptoms a few months after I got out.

-Chris
xcws@aol.com

Patricia Cummings said...

I am a post gulf war veteran. I had a split tour in the military. First I was in the reserves in 1976 and later active duty in 1987. I ETS in 1992. I have MS. I was diagnosis in 2006 and the symptoms that I had been complaining about while on active duty relate to those of MS. I feel that my MS was eventually introduced or I gathered it from the immunizations of the Military. I hate living this way as I seem to get worse each year with pain, numbness, headaches and lost of income d/t being medically retired after notifing my boss that I have the disease. I am a RN and I use to worked with the VA.

nrombeck said...

My father was in the Vietnam war, he was exposed to Agent Orange while there. Now, I have been diagnosed with several medical issues to include Multiple Sclerosis. Is there a correlation? What can I do? I need help, my MS is progressing without a distinct slowing.

Anonymous said...

I'm a 26 year old vet that served 4 years in Korea. Without any family history of the disease. Does anyone know where I can find out what percentage of vets get diagnosed with MS compared to the general US population?

Anonymous said...

I served with US Army and USAR for a total of 14yrs. With immunizations, and radiation. I am the first with MS in my family. I was diagnosed with Transverse Mialitis SEP 1994, transferred to MS in MAR 1995, while on TDY, sent home by POV to during bout activation. Now I am struggling with the VA and being forced early retirement.

Rene said...

I am a CPT in the U.S. Army. I was diagnosed with MS in November 2008. Deployed to Iraq in support of OIF 2004-2005 for 14 months. I definitly think there is a connection. With everything that I had read it seems to be too much of a coincidence.

Anonymous said...

I am 29 years old and currently a CPT in the Army. I served for 14 Months in Iraq in support of OIF from 2004-2005. I was diagnosed with MS in November of 2008. After studying the disease and reading the articles there seems to be too many coincidences for MS and Military not to be connected. It is comforting to hear that others are there searching for an answer.

Anonymous said...

My husband served in the heavily sprayed II Corps area in Vietnam 1969-70. Our son, Kevin, was conceived within 1 month of his return. As a child in diapers, Kevin would occasionally break out in bleeding blisters on his bottom that could only be treated with something we obtained from the dispensary, not available OTC. Kevin was ultimately diagnosed with a severely debilitating form of MS at 21, being totally disabled 4 months after diagnosis. (In retrospect, we identified minor symptoms beginning at 16.) Our son was serving in the Navy Reserve when he was diagnosed; He was given a non-medical discharge and received no benefits.) Kevin passed away June 14, 2009. There is no MS on either family's side.

Anonymous said...

My brother served as a U.S. Navy SeeBee in the Mekong Delta from 1968-1969. After leaving Vietnam he was posted to Adak, AK in the Aleutian Islands, and within a year of his new posting he was diagnosed with MS in 1970. My brother died in a VA Hospital in 2000 from MS related causes, after spending nearly 25 years on his back staring at the ceiling in a care center. While we are grateful that the U.S. Government did care for him from 1970 to 2000, I still have this feeling that Agent Orange was the cause of his MS. We know of the terrible consequences, such as birth defects, among the Vietnamese population, but I wonder if there has ever been studies on the amount of MS among the native population of Vietnam before and after the use of Agent Orange.

larry said...

I was in Vietnam most of 1970 at Long Binh. Huge storage depot for Agent Orange and our next-door neighbor was Ben Hua a major source of flights spraying Agent Orange. I was diagnosed with MS in 1980 ten years after Vietnam. The percentage of Vietnam vets with MS is far beyond the normal population yet it has never been added to the Agent Orange list. It has dramatically altered my life and that of many other soldiers, but the military still fails to take responsibility for a very difficult to diagnose disease prior to MRI (needed to positively diagnose MS) availability in the mid 1980's. I am getting excellent care at the VA for my MS but what about the fact that I and so many others have suffered from the ravages of MS and an inability to find or keep jobs because of our disabilities

Stephanie said...

Here is a thought. I am not a veteran, however, I do have MS. I have recently learned of this possible link between MS and the military and also that the area where I was raised seems to be a "hot spot" for MS. This area is also very close to Fort Knox training grounds. Perhaps it is not the vaccinations but something else that soldiers (and others) are exposed to.

Anonymous said...

My dad was in the Army in Vietnam from 66-68. My mom has letters from him where he writes on some days he would be drenched in chemicals that the airplanes were dropping. At the time he did not know what it was but I think it was agent orange. He died in 1983 when I was six and he was only 35. His whole body shut down. His dr said he had the body of a 70 year old man. On the day he died a received a liver transplant and three hours later had a fatal heart attack. My mom applied for VA and was denied. Others in his unit all died around the same time as my dad.
At 24, I was diagnosed with MS. No one in my family has it. After reading my dad's medical info, he often complained of extreme fatigue which I had 5 years prior to diagnosis. At 33 I am on disability.

Anonymous said...

I have Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. I lived on the Ernest Harmon Air Force Base in Stephenville, Newfoundland. We played near the Roundhouse. Agent Orange (2,4,5-T)which promotes neurotoxity, does lead to MS. I was an athletic person who did not deserve this!

Anonymous said...

I would just like know if anyone has been medically discharge from the army with multiple sclerosis and how much of a percentage did you recieve from the army and the VA. THANKS

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I'm an MS patient, female, aged 30, in Vietnam. I've got MS for 10 years and now in a wheel. This disease is very rare here, and medication is very limited. The only option available in Vietnam is steroids.
My grandpa worked for the US in wartime. I don't know if I got MS because he got in touch with agent orange or had vaccination or anything else. This matter has just crossed my mind when I saw your article.
If it is the case, some patients in Vietnam who are classified as "disability because of agent orange" might have MS too.
Just being curious...

Dao
mkadao@gmail.com

D. Todd Turner said...

I was medically retired from the Army after being diagnosed with MS in 1999. I got a 30% rating from the Army, and 100% from VA. There has been some studies done that link the HEP B Vacination that might trigger a genetic defect that might cause MS. My dad was also in Vietnam and exposed to Agent Orange.

Stella Abrams said...

My husband served in Viet Nam. We have a daughter that was born with very short arms. She has recently had an MRI of her brain and may possibly have M S. She also has many other problems. We have always wondered about the effects of agent orange on children. My husband also has had many skin problems. Four years ago he was having problems walking , He had many test and had swelling on his spine, which improved. The neurologist he went to thought it might be from agent orange and may reappear. The V A would not test him for agent orange..

Anonymous said...

I am a women veteran and I have Multiple Sclerosis. It was first suspected in 1996 by VA but not diagnosed until 2004. Although I served until my time was up and went on to inactive service. I do not get any veteran preference because of the time I served I also did not get any college. I am currently working for the Army as a civilian at Fort Knox in the hospital, but I would like to get back into my preferred field. Accounting. Can I get any help or disability? I am currently having issues with MS.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran with MS and served in "I" Corps in 1969. I have no family history of MS anywhere on either side. I was exposed to Agent Orange and have often wondered if that is the possible cause of my MS. I'm fairly certain that there is either a link between vaccinations or Agent Orange as the number of us being diagnosed is exceptional for our age group... so there must be a link to our service.

MS Activist said...

If you are a veteran and need assistance to ensure that you are receiving all of the benefits to which you are entitled, locate your local national service office on this website: http://pva.convio.net/site/PageServer?pagename=memb_chapters.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I have wondered about many of the things mentioned. We served during Desert Storm. I have MS, he has multiple issues that the receives VA compensation for. Our oldest daughter had rheumatic fever with sydenhams chorea (Pretty rare in this day and age), our second daughter has such a bad immune system that she was once thought to have leukemia, she has severe asthma and scleradoma. Our third daughter also has extreme asthmas and severe food allergies to over half a dozen foods. She also has female problems that make life pretty miserable. We feel that these problems are related to mystery immunizations we received in the Army. No one else on either side of the family has any of these types of health problems.

P.Salsbury said...

Our son, Kevin, was conceived upon his father's return from Viet Nam in 1970. Twenty-two years later, Kevin was diagnosed with MS while in the Navy Reserve, and upon notification of his unit, promptly given an honorable discharge - not medical. I have always suspected a link between vaccinations and Multiple Sclerosis. In retrospect, Kevin realized his MS fatigue symptoms began during boot camp, and got progressively worse before tremors and double-vision symptoms started two years later. Kevin was totally disabled within 30 days of his March 1993 diagnosis. Acute chronic primary progressive multiple sclerosis of the cerebellar type. Similar to others who have commented here, MS or similar neurological conditions appear nowhere on either side of our families' medical histories. Kevin lived valiantly for 16 years, the last three completely bedridden and quadriplegic with tubes everywhere. Something must be done to protect our children. Too much has been covered up with regard to the adjuvants and carriers (aluminum, mercury) in vaccinations. I strongly believe there's a cause/effect relationship between vaccines and multiple sclerosis.

Anonymous said...

I served 22 years in the military, I am retired service connected with only 30 percent minimum service connected as of 2002. I use to run distance, I even ran a marathon the same year I was diagnosed but no more for me I can barely stand after four hours. I have no idea how I got this but more VA support is needed, 30 percent? I struggle to make it through a four hour day of easy labor! The CFR needs revision it is too easy for congress to put a simple antiquated number of 30 on a life changing event that is terribly misunderstood.

Anonymous said...

After 25 years of serving in the navy, my husband was diagnosed with MS in 2006. He retired the following year and passed away in 2011. It was heart-breaking to see him go from a senior officer who had high responsibilities to be reliant on a daily nurse and myself. Though he got discouraged a great number of times, loss use of his legs, feel, and hands, he never lost his spunk. My life has taken a complete turn since then. We were married 36 years. My income is less than 1/3 of what it was before. But, none of this compares to the loneliness I feel every day. The doctors assured me my husband would live to old age, but one morning he collapsed in my arms - gone from me forever. The military has been good to us, but I find myself bitter at times that it took my husband from me. There is also no doubt the immunizations are what took him away. He spent a great deal of time overseas. I only wish he could have been involved with this research that is going on for military members. Anything I can do to help with this research, I will. We hear a lot of the wounded vets, but hear very little of those who died of service-related diseases. I feel so alone. Today is Memorial Day and I posted all types of memorials of my husband and received lots of emails from his comrades; it is the military that understands, but my friends and family don't.

Tara Johnson said...

Female Air Force Veteran 1985-1996: Immunized for Desert Storm, but deployed elsewhere overseas in support of DS. In the process of diagnosis for suspected MS/MS type sysmptoms. Feels like for the past year I've only been placated and treated condescendingly by VA Neuorologist; Now seeking Civilian Medical Care. Why is this not more in the open? We need to shout until we are heard - we've earned the right to get answers and the medical services we need!

Anonymous said...

After 3 months upon returning from an Iraq tour I started having symptoms that went along with MS. I had an opthamologist, radiologist and a neurologist state MS but with moving with the military I went to a new Neurologist who was overseeing my med board and stated that it was not MS. It states Uhtoff's instead. Which Uhtoff's is a symptom of MS. I have now been medically retired and all I was given for my neurological eye problem was 10 percent. Now I ended up in the ER 6 months after retiring and the MRI showed more lesions. I am confused on how I had lesions before, and during the med board I did not have any, and now I do again. Some how I think I was royally screwed. I am still in my appeal window and think I might use it.

2Oth Engineer brigade said...

I'm a Viet Nam Vet 67-68. I have relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. although recently diagnosed, I had Optic neuritis in 1975, which is MS. I was in areas heavily sprayed with Agent Orange.