Testimony of Denise Nichols
Thursday, October 12, 2000 9:37 PM
Good morning Senators, Mr Perot, Dr Hailey, and all government officials represented
I am Denise Nichols a retired Air Force flight nurse(Major)(MSN) who served in the gulf
in theater from a TEXAS unit. I represent as Vice Chairman the National Vietnam and Gulf
Veterans Coalition, a Coalition of 110 member groups nationally and internationally. But most
all I represent my fellow soldiers that I served with in the Gulf War. I advocate and care for
as much now as when I was on duty to care for them in the Gulf.
I am here today to that the VA and the DOD be removed from the investigation and research
of Gulf War illness issues. It is time to move the research moneys to either another agency or
ideally to multiple independent research centers that are geographically scattered across the
States. We, the veterans, have been advocating this since 1994 when we saw that truthful actions
from the DOD were not occurring at the speed that was needed in relationship to our illnesses.
The Presidential Advisory Committee, prior to its extension into its second term, was on the
very edge of calling for the removal of the DOD from the investigation. Sadly the members that
the truth were outnumbered by those that had served in the government and were insulated in the
status quo bureaucratic trap of the past.
Congressman Shays' subcommittee led a three year investigation into Gulf War illnesses and
his committee's final recommendations stated that another agency or an independent agency.
are many dedicated physicians and researchers that have stood up to help the gulf war
veterans.(American Association of Environmental Physicians) Other interested researchers and
scientists are scattered across the United States, Britain, and other coalition countries. These
doctors and researchers should be funded to include a diversity of approaches and
The process of review that has occurred in relationship to the granting of research funding needs
investigation and restructuring. There has been a prejudice to fund stress/psychological research
vs real science. An example, is the denial of granting research funds for Dr William Boone who
performed semen analysis and electron microscope examination that showed an unidentified
organism. The denial letter which I will provide the committee, stated in Reviewer B
"highly controversial with political implications." At the time, the spouses of veterans were
complaining of developing symptoms directly related to transmittability and an objective search
answer an immediate public health issue was delayed and still has not occurred.
How many other legitimate research projects to find the answers that remain in our bodies
been denied? How much more suffering and potential spread of these unidentified organisms
occurred in the last five years?
It is obvious, that DOD officials have no intention to provide the data and information
to permit the completion of essential research. Many of the theater's preventive medicine
staff did and continue to try to get the information out. These individuals should be called
under protection of law, so that their knowledge, experience, and observations can be used to
optimize research outcomes. Accurate information will permit the effective allocation of
with consequent outcomes in the best interest of all veterans.
The current research process is faulty. The process of providing care and collection of
clinical observations has been obstructed. Many VA doctors when they stood up and said there
a problem through complete clinical assessment(including neurological), history taking
observations, clinical diagnostic procedures and/or lab work were told not to speak up. Some
answered the call, morally and ethically, and experienced retaliation. They were quickly shown
door out of the VA system. These doctors include: Dr Assif Durakovic(a doctor who served
us in theater), Dr Bill Baumzweiger(California VA), Dr Kathleen Leisure-Murray(Lebanon, PA),
among many other physicians. We had a radiologist, with a specialty in performing PET and
Scans that found the same neurotoxic damage in every gulf war veteran he tested in Oklahoma.
Another doctor who was shown the exit door of the VA in Oklahoma. Was his work compiled
that of a doctors on the east coast, in Dallas, and in Louisiana who also found the same
Were these specialists called forward to testify? Were these doctors and researchers funded
continue to document their findings to help us getto answers and treatment?
The ANSWER IS NO!
WE found that many of the DOD/VA doctors that questioned and became involved, were
rapidly transferred when they sought to get research started. One of the doctors I saw during a
CCEP Evaluation at Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center, who had been seeing the gulf war
in dermatology and who also had a husband that served with us in the gulf who was experiencing
symptoms was not provided information on the ongoing investigations. This black lady
a West Point graduate was being kept in the dark and not provided information. When she was
supplied information, she was upset and approached the physician in charge of the program and
to not make waves. She was fully qualified but could not sign the patients out of the clinic.
a senior ranking Dermatologist was called who would not investigate but simply wrote rashes off
as eczema and typical of age despite what ever age of the veteran.
How can we the veterans expect objective work to be done? When we seek care we feel that
we are being screened out. The Gulf War veterans that have presented themselves to the VA for
care have been subjected to means testing, third party billing of any insurance , or in the latest
examples we have heard this week that a payment of a co-charge of $50.00 was required to
care. These actions that have been reported continuously, throughout the nation have been dealt
with as we are notified. But the point remains these action are not in accordance either with the
sense of Congress or the laws enacted since the gulf war. It has been at least 7 years since this
has arisen and we would most certainly expect that the VA Hospitals across the nation would
have received training and guidance and directives. This in facts leads the Gulf War veterans to
leave the VA system and suffer in silence. This leaves the VA with failing to provide care,
interfering with the collection of accurate objective findings to base research hypotheses.
The veterans that have symptoms that flare and then resolve repeatedly cannot even get an
appointment to get these documented when they are occurring, appointments if you are lucky are
two months later. Complaints of vision problems and dental problems that are significant are
even evaluated because you have to have 100% disability to get in to those clinics. The area of
research on visual problems, hearing problems, and dental problems have not even been
A Dentist at the VA in Denver was very helpful because his brother had been an Agent Orange
Veteran and he had been one of the dentist activated to send troops out and then receive them
to home base. He knew the state of dental health for the troops. When he saw the veterans
5 years having significant dental problems he knew and was able to identify that something more
was involved. He knew the Veterans in Denver were showing up with borderline low RBCs and
this signaled that something had occurred. He also saw many fillings crumble after a short
of time, gum problems that related to a change of circulation and immunological problems, teeth
that chipped easily and teeth that were abnormally loose. But yet I have yet to see a reporting in
dentistry journal on this problem or an opthamology journal reporting of the visual findings.
The abnormal acoustical testing my ears was found by an audiologist contracted to do CCEP
evaluations. I myself had to go back for the same test twice. When I asked why. He said off the
record that what he was seeing was ototoxicity. He wondered why, until I showed him Senator
Reigle's Committee Report from 1994. He got interested and wanted to do some further
but he was blocked. Again no journal reporting of these problems. And not only that but I could
not get him to put his thoughts and clinical diagnosis down in my record.
Our spinal x-rays are showing curvature and we are told we have scolosis, but yet prior to
war this was not there. X-rays are showing early disc problems, degeneration, hip problems,
decalcification, and knee problems but I have yet to see a research article or journal article
addressing these findings.
We get reports of early cardiac deaths, pacemakers in young previously healthy individuals
in groups of individuals ( a tank battalion in Boiser City, La). Again no medical journal articles
share information between physicians. We have had reports of loss of kidneys, or renal stones,
GI and esophageal problems but again no documentation and no journal articles. We have had 2
spleenic ruptures that I know of are there more? WE have no running database for these
(or for cancer) that have been open to veterans and researchers. These databases exist at the VA
again the data is not published or available. We have no running database of deaths by name
state so that surviving family members can check to see if their kin is identified. The data is not
open to a check and balance system or for independent doctors or researcher review. We have
database that shows the multiple diagnoses and yet to be resolved undiagnosed symptoms for
individual veteran openly available that would demonstrate the complex deterioration of health
these veterans. There is no medical database linked up or cross checked to geographic location
Reproductive disorders that appear to be high example: increased numbers of early
hysterectomies due to bleeding probably related to endocrine disruptors that we were exposed in
theater have not been tabulated for the total female veteran population. Problems with loss of
sensation and abilities(impotence in male and female veterans) have not even been considered.
Where this leads us, is to call for those steps mentioned previously call forward the Army
Preventive medicine team that served in theater with the protection of law in order to reveal all
information possible on exposures.
- An independent agency to take over the databases and have them accessible to veterans,
doctors, and researchers that will take on the job of statistical research and correlation to in
location and causative agents.
- A call for an investigation into the retaliation on the people that have come forward to share
- A call for a GAO survey of doctors within the military and the VA to seek their insights
- A call for an investigation into the review process for research proposal granting.
- An independent review of those research proposals that were turned down and the letters of
denial of funding.
- A call to bring forward the individuals that participate in any fraudulent research grant
processes and any physicians that willfully obstructed the process of getting answers for Gulf
- A call for an independent agency or a combination of an independent agency with another
federal government agency with no ties to the DOD and specific instructions to research the
objectively regardless of politics or other concerns.(geographically dispersed throughout the
- A call for funding of vouchers for Gulf War veterans so that we can seek care, testing, and
treatment by doctors that step forward - with adequate protection afforded to the doctors so that
do not suffer retaliation of any kind.(include funding to doctors and researchers that have already
stepped forward to continue care and expand research for treatment)
- An increase effort to find other patriots like Ross Perot that care and will step up to the
with financial assistance in several medical centers across the nation geographically to kick start
fast track the research and care that Gulf War veterans have earned by putting their lives on the
for the country.