Dr. Joseph Joins Dr. Rostker in Testimony Before the House National Security Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Feb 12, 1997 (Gulflink) - Dr. Bernard Rostker, Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Gulf War Illnesses, and Dr. Stephen Joseph, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, testified before the Military Subcommittee of the House National Security Committee on Tuesday, February 11th, 1997. The subcommittee wanted to hear testimony on the status of investigations into the causes of Gulf War illnesses.

Representative Steve Buyer (R-ID), who chaired the committee, stated, "The principal goal of this hearing is to gain a better understanding of the Department's approach to treating Gulf service members, those who are still on active duty, and to identify initial actions that may be needed to improve their treatment and their potential discharges under medical proceedings."

Dr. Rostker led his testimony by stating: "As the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, my first priority is the health and welfare of our Gulf War veterans." As coordinator for all issues relating to the Gulf War, Dr. Rostker described two vital aspects of his mission: " to ensure that we learn everything possible about the potential causes of illnesses, including events before, during and after the war, and to promote improved communication with Gulf War veterans on the relevant health care issues. This endeavor is critical because we have a moral duty to our veterans and to those who serve now. Therefore, we must understand what is making our people sick so that we can make the changes necessary to protect our people in the future."

Dr. Rostker also told the committee that he has expanded into two new areas to initiate a proactive risk-communication strategy with two-way communications between DoD, VA and the Gulf War veterans as recommended by the Presidential Advisory Committee. Today, when a veteran calls our hotline to offer information, the veteran will receive a follow-up call by a trained investigator. This serves as a springboard for veterans outreach as we continue to strengthen partnerships with veterans service organizations.

Dr. Joseph later explained to the committee that active duty personnel have access to military doctors and retirees have access to veterans' hospitals for service-related ailments, but health care for the Reservist is the area "where we have done the least well." Reservists are only entitled to military health care while they are on active duty.

Dr. Joseph continued, "I think it would be appropriate for the Department to be mandated to continue care, as well as evaluation, for the Reservists who come into the Comprehensive Clinical Evaluation Program."

In closing, Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS), the ranking member of the committee, directed his comment to Dr. Joseph when he said, "I would hope that you would supply to this committee, in writing, your suggestions to solve the problem of health care for our returning Guardsmen and Reservists...I am talking about the young person who has left the service, or the Reservist, or Guardsman, who has come home, how do we take care of them?"

Dr. Joseph said that he would do so.