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Healthcare Utilization Patterns and Associated Costs for Gulf War I Era

Over four million U.S. service members served worldwide during the 1990-1991 Gulf War (Gulf War Era I). Over 700,000 troops were deployed to the Southwest Asia region. After the war was over, a study examined hospitalizations of Gulf War Era I Veterans who were deployed compared to those who weren’t. At the time, no significant difference existed between the groups.

However, as time passed, Gulf War Era I Veterans who had been deployed to the Southwest Asia region began to show symptoms of unexplained illness. These symptoms included fatigue, dizziness, stomach illness, and other health complaints. Doctors began to identify patterns of symptoms that are now recognized as Gulf War Syndrome, or Gulf War Illness (GWI). It is estimated that 25 - 36% of deployed Gulf War Era I Veterans have GWI.

Gulf War Era I Veterans are typically between 44-64 years old. As these Veterans age, risks for other chronic health conditions increase. So do risks for age-related disorders, such as dementia. While studies have documented GWI well, we know less about how to treat GWI for the long-term. 

Our team is working to better understand and document the health issues deployed and non-deployed Gulf War Era I Veterans face. The TORCH team has partnered with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Center of Innovation for Veteran-Centered and Value-Driven Care and the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS) to conduct a survey for Gulf War Era I Veterans. This survey asks Veterans to describe health care use and needs.

The results will be used to help healthcare providers:

  • Streamline systems and approaches to care;
  • Consider benefits of traditional care (VA hospitals and clinics) and non-traditional care (e.g. acupuncture, recreational therapy, etc.);
  • Identify and address cost burdens for care;
  • Understand Veteran preferences and use of healthcare services.

The VA has more information on GWI, healthcare, and current benefits and assistance for Gulf War Era I Veterans.