About one-third of veterans – an estimated 175,000 to 250,000 military personnel – of the 1991 Gulf War suffer from an array of long-term medically unexplained symptoms known as chronic multisymptom illness (CMI), a serious health condition that imposes a tremendous burden of suffering. CMI does not have a defined set of symptoms and can vary from person to person. Veterans with CMI may experience physical symptoms, such as fatigue and joint and muscle pain; cognitive symptoms, such as memory difficulties; and symptoms often associated with depression and anxiety.
Since 1998, the IOM has issued a series of congressionally mandated reports on behalf of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that have examined the scientific and medical literature on the potential health effects of chemical and biological agents related to the Gulf War. Unlike previous work, this report comprehensively reviews and evaluates treatments for CMI to determine how to best manage care for veterans. This report says that, in changing how it treats CMI, the VA can make a significant difference in the lives of veterans who have the condition by helping to ensure they receive more integrated, comprehensive and responsive health care.