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Kirt P. Love

Kirt P. Love, Crawford, TX, Director, Desert Storm Battle Registry

 

Dear Distinguished Committee Members:

My name is Kirt Love, and I served in the Army as part of C. Co. 141 Signal Battalion while in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990-1991. At this time I am 60 percent service connected but only after a long 8 year fight with VA to do so. There had been two Presidentials involved in my case and finally a meeting with Sec Anthony Principi staff after a VBA appeal hearing in DC to get what little I have. It shouldn't have been that way to begin with.

My protracted illness was gradual and by 1993 I was having such health problems that I lost my home. I moved in with a kind friend as I lingered in much of 1993 and 1994 in a death bed. By then food was like broken glass, and water like battery acid - I was passing my intestinal lining in
sheets as a host of other problems made this worse. The doctors of that day had no clue, and only after trying a old veterinarian remedy did I improve enough to regain some function. VA never figured out what was effecting me then or now.

By 1996 I wanted to understand what had happened to me and started looking into what happened to our unit during the war. I learned of OSAGWI and began digging on there
website to find out more. By 1997 I launched a website of my own to find other vets and compare there own experiences with my own. I called my effort the "Desert Storm Battle Registry" to see if the other ground troops had similar issues.

By late 1997 I inventoried the whole DOD OSAGWI declass file server and sent them a list of the over 400 files they had pulled from that server. This became my battle cry as it turned out there were over 6,000,000 files they would not release, and only a heavily censored 43,000 the public would see. At a staggering cost of $150,000,000 to declassify that project and then conceal it from the public. Without those records veterans such as myself had no real substantive evidence in support of what we saw during the war. Like the massive chemical weapons demolitions around my unit in March 1991 that DOD still to this day wants to ignore.

Around 1999 I was meeting with multiple entities on the hill such as the IOM, GAO, Pentagon, PSOB, MHVCB, OSAGWI, and others concerning our plight. The tone was different then because there was oversight all around us. By 2000 that all changed, and by 2001 grass roots groups were no longer welcome at the Pentagon. That would lead to a 10 year decline as veterans were cut off and kept at bay. This I would witness first hand and up close as OSAGWI stopped meeting with veterans. Why, oversight was gone. VA and DOD took advantage of that.

By 2002 the GW Research Advisory Committee would be the only entity left that had any input in Gulf War issues. But, they were only research and this didn't help with the benefit / healthcare issues. The years would pass and VA would make sure that anything related to Gulf War
was invisible. Programs would go largely ignored and the title removed so that veterans couldn't figure out how they changed. i.e. A Gulf War Referral Center would be come a War Related Illness and Injury Study Center. Well, we still couldn't get a referral if we didn't know it existed.

After hounding the RAC for years it became necessary to push for another entity. I started in 2006 by proposing the need for another GW coordinating board which is listed in PL 105-368. Others talked me down to a Advisory committee, and by 2007 the RAC finally made the recommendation to VA for this. The support was soft and they failed to get it. I repackaged this, and sent it through Rep. Chet Edwards. Sec. James Peake agreed to the idea. Of which I then pushed to get on this committee. I did,and then started the slow process of collecting data.

Problem here was VA took advantage of the way the proposal was made to give the committee a 18 month lifespan and then put ringers on it. Namely, choosing a former Undersecretary of Personnel and Readiness at the Pentagon to Chair the committee. Many didn't understand, at one time he was in charge of OSAGWI but not quite in the same capacity as former Bernard Rostker. This would become apparent when the committee toured and its fact finding was passive at best. It showed that the Chairman had his own agenda and wanted this committee disbanded as quickly as possible. So the results were thin, rushed, and the committee was quickly disbanded before its deadline without so much as a press release at the end. I was so
displeased with the report I dissented at the end, but kept it simple and cited the PDICI as my primary complaint. In truth, much of what I wanted didn't make it into the report and I found myself largely censored as well as continuously chastised by Cragin to scare the others into duplicity with his desires. It was a mostly good ole boy network of former friends of his which gave him controlling interest in the final votes.

By Feb 2009 VA would release its August 2008 GWVIS report. Within 3 hours of its release I found numerous problems with the report. Comparing it back to the February 2008 report there were massive numerical changes. Rather than 290,195 files claimed by Gulf war vets, VA was saying it had gone down to 258,317. A loss of 31,878 vets who had applied for benefits. There would be over 8 categories of similar numerical changes of 10 percent or more to the negative. So I wrote VA and told them of what I had found. I told my committee and they didn't care. From Feb 11th 2009 to April 6th 2008 VA ignored my letter. Even tried to tell me to start from scratch on my request for that data. My committee also ignored this until finally Gerald Johnson dropped the ball that then got passed to Thomas Kniffen. This by then had gotten silly enough that Chairman Cragin saw the need to step in. By June 30th 2009 a subcommittee of the ACGWV met with VBA to discuss the GWVIS.

VBA made promises to revamp the whole GWVIS structure and reports. Well, a year has passed since the promise and even today they do not have anything to show your committee on the progress of how these reports have improved. They were to be published July 27th 2010 and I called VBA to find it won’t happen.

Our committees last meeting would be with Chief of Staff John Gingrich. He announced the Gulf War Illness Task Force that he would Chair. There would be a continuing Gulf War presence at VA and then there would be a report of there own shortly. But, the Task Force was comprised
only of 25 internal VA staff that did not have to share there daily work with the public. There would be no website, public meetings, or interaction with them externally. By the time they published that report it was painfully apparent that it was being controlled by legacy government personnel providing bad input to send things backwards. The heavy IOM influence and the desire to bring the invisible Deployment Health Working Group was a severe blow of past dysfunction trying to be resurrected. If it didn't work before, how would it improve by bringing it back. Fortunately, the COS would allow public comments of the report which over 200 of us would provide over 250 pages of materials to that effect. I myself posted the first 10 ideas online within hours of this website launch, and pushed hard over 30 days to get others to do the same.

All said and done, July 22nd 2010 VA announces Gulf War medical research studies. A exercise study, anti depressant study, mind based stress reduction study. Its like 1997all over again. There are no new specialized external clinics, no new programs, and anything related to our plight that is no more visible now than in 2009. I myself have great reason to be distressed as 20 years after the war find my own current VA medical care no better than when I started my odyssey back in 1993. That despite my best efforts to say the obvious to VA and fight its upper ranks they still don't listen. Rather than be more public they are now more reclusive and invisible than ever. I cant get straight answers from VA after having been on a federal committee. They have ignored Rep. Chet Edwards request that I be included in the Task Force work as a subject matter expert.

This letter could have been 20 pages long with a tremendous amount of other details. This has been condensed for the sake of this hearing. But, its high time that one of Congresses committees needs to step in and take a hard stance with VA on its very form and function. Gulf War veterans deserve better and we should have a voice in our medical care as well as benefits. This hearing will not be enough to do that fact if you base it souly on what data you collect today. We need a oversight body attached to VA on GW issues that doesn't go away in 18 months. Without oversight our issue will languish another 20 years. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Kirt P. Love
Director, DSBR
Former member: ACGWV
52D - C. Co 141 Signal Battalion