News FocusEpidemiology

From Soldiers to Veterans, Good Health to Bad

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Science  08 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6086, pp. 1226-1227
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6086.1226

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The U.S. military learned a hard lesson about veterans' health after combat in Kuwait and Iraq in 1991. Sloppy and incomplete medical records made it all but impossible to pin down the cause of Gulf War syndrome, a mysterious set of immune and cognitive ailments that some linked to chemical, vaccine, or pathogen exposure. Congress and veterans' groups criticized the military for not taking claims seriously and even branding some victims as malingerers. Before the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military health officials were determined to avoid these mistakes. They've spent the past decade instituting programs—some more successful than others—to monitor veterans' health and provide better, more timely care.