Senators Want Answers on Soldiers’ Preparedness

Unites States Senate
Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

February 14, 2003

The Honorable David S.C. Chu, Ph.D.
Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness
U.S. Department of Defense
Washington, D.C. 20301-1220

Dear Dr. Chu:

As the Department of Defense deploys a growing number of troops to the Persian Gulf region, it is critical to heed the lessons learned during the 1991 Gulf War. We are writing to inquire about the military’s preparedness to protect forces in Southwest Asia, and your progress in implementing effective record keeping and medical surveillance systems.

At the Committee’s October 16, 2001, hearing on VA’s Fourth Mission, you testified that the Defense Department had “published directives and instructions
and issued policies on record keeping and medical surveillance during deployments.” Please list these directives, instructions, and policies, indicating how completely each has been implemented in all service branches.

In addition, we request that you answer the following questions. What percentage of service members deploying to Southwest Asia, including reservists,
have received a full health exam within two months of deployment? What steps have been taken to ensure complete and accurate recording of information on both
in-service medical encounters (including pyridostigmine bromide pretreatment) and potential exposures to chemical or biological hazards (whether environmental contaminants or weapons) during deployment? Please describe the mechanisms by
which this information is captured, collected and analyzed. What steps have you taken to track individual troop location during conflicts, and to link this information to data on environmental exposures? Please describe how the military will transmit this information to VA for treatment, research, or compensation purposes. What is the status of the interchangeable military-veteran computer-based patient record? Finally, what percentage of troops deploying to Southwest Asia, including reservists, have received smallpox
and anthrax vaccines? What has been the incidence of adverse events, and how many troops have been exempted for medical reasons?

We request that you submit a report, within 30 days of your receipt of this letter, in response to the preceding questions. In conjunction with the
report’s submission, we also ask that you (or your designee) brief the Veterans’ Committee staff.

We are encouraged by positive press accounts regarding the military’s medical preparedness efforts, but believe that a formal report would benefit service members and veterans. Should you have any questions regarding this request, please contact Professional Staff Member, Mr. Jon Towers, at (202) 224-9126, or minority Professional Staff Member, Dr. Julie Fischer, at (202) 224-2074.


Arlen Specter, Chairman

Bob Graham, Ranking Member

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