Privacy issues jam Gulf War illness probe

July 26, 2009 at 7:05 PM

DALLAS, July 26 (UPI) -- Disputes between University of Texas Southwestern researchers and the Veterans Administration are delaying finding causes of Gulf War illnesses, officials said.

The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday the VA refuses to pay UT researchers because researchers unilaterally change veterans' consent forms to protect vets' privacy. The VA maintains it is not receiving the medical records it requires.

"We are going to re-consent the veterans in the study so the amount of information the VA needs is available to them," UT Southwestern spokesman Tim Doke said.

Epidemiologist Robert Haley spearheads the UT project, intended to discover why many 1991 Persian Gulf War veterans suffer from loss of muscle control, dizziness, headaches, joint pain, memory loss and chronic fatigue.

"Our goal is to hand the VA a diagnostic test they could franchise out to all VA medical centers and see how many veterans have brain illness," Haley said. "Then everyone can develop a promising set of treatment ideas."

The project was initiated in April 2006 with assistance from U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Dallas billionaire Ross Perot. UT administrators and the federal government contracted to devote $75 million on researching the causes of Gulf War illnesses.

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