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.