Monday, July 6, 2009

In the News: Veterans with MS Gather in PA to Recognize Congressman Murtha

Study shows link between Gulf War service and MS
By Michael Kuhne, Daily American Correspondent
Our Town newspaper
Thursday, July 2, 2009

JOHNSTOWN — Local veterans and members of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society gathered in the Holiday Inn along Market Street Wednesday to recognize U.S. Rep. John Murtha for securing funds for medical research.

Approximately $5 million has been allocated to the society through the U.S. Department of Defense. Murtha secured the funding through the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program.

“We’re here to thank Congressman Murtha and to talk about an important program in achieving funding for medical research,” said David Chatel, executive vice president of advocacy for the organization.

The funding has been the result of efforts by society members and veterans seeking more research to answer questions about the disease, board Chairman Robert Bernstein said.The primary purpose of the event is to understand what MS is, how it affects people and what the society is doing to stop it, he said.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society attempted to secure an appropriation for research in 2007, but did not. The organization was later recognized by Congress and added to the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program.

“We recognize the tremendous need for MS research,” Pittsburgh division board member Geoff Kelly said. “We understand our activists have a vision of a world without MS; make no mistake, we will get there.”

Tom Caulfield of the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania stated during his speech that many cases of multiple sclerosis among veterans are linked to combat service. This link is most clear among Gulf War veterans and could be due to a neurotoxin, said Caulfield, who donated $500 to the organization.

National Multiple Sclerosis Society vice president of federal government relations Shawn O’Neail said this could be because there is more data available on veterans from the Gulf War than Vietnam War veterans.

O’Neail said a study of Kuwaiti residents shows the number of multiple sclerosis cases doubling in the last six years, indicating a possible environmental trigger for MS.

The event closed with an award ceremony for Murtha’s contribution and a short speech from activist Angela Gorzelsky, who suffers from the disease. Murtha was unable to attend to the event. The award was accepted by the congressman’s district director, Mark Critz.

“Everything we can do comes from everybody out there,” Gorzelsky said. “It really will make a difference.”

More information about the National Multiple Sclerosis Society can be found online at or by calling 1-800-FIGHT-MS.

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