The National Gulf War Resource Center (NGWRC), an advocacy group for Gulf War Veterans, spoke to VA Secretary Bob McDonald about health care, research and benefits for Gulf War Veterans. The following is part one of the discussion, focusing on health care and research. Part two, focusing on benefits and VA’s accomplishments for Gulf War Veterans, will follow in a future blog post.

National Gulf War Resource Center: We have suggested that VA establish VA Centers of Excellence clinics or other clinics in each state or Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) with the purpose to diagnose and treat complex illnesses caused by toxic exposures on today’s modern battlefield. Is VA considering this, and if so, what is the current status of these clinics?

Secretary McDonald: VA is considering opening such centers (funding permitting), and is thinking about the best framework. One possibility is that a system of clinics or “Centers of Excellence” could collaborate with the War Related Illness and Injury Study Centers (WRIISC) that are located in Washington, D.C.; Palo Alto, California; and East Orange, New Jersey. These WRIISC sites already function as referral centers and conduct important research, clinical care, and education activities related to Gulf War Illness. The WRIISCs are prepared to coordinate with the centers’ various aspects of clinical assessment protocols, collect and analyze patient information, provide education including care and management concepts, and help centralize clinical research efforts.

NGWRC:  The NGWRC has heard from some Gulf War Veterans that primary care providers are hesitant to refer Veterans to