Telephone callback team completes 61 percent of backlog of vets' calls

WASHINGTON, March 30, 1997 (GulfLINK) - The Pentagon's Gulf War Illnesses investigation team has reduced by 61 percent the backlog of 1,235 telephone calls that accumulated last year.

Marie Danco, who is in charge of the callback program, said, "We have 17 people - all veterans and some of whom served in the Gulf - working the phones to get back to everyone."

She said, "The backlog was 1,235 calls. As of March 14, we have gotten back to 753 of them, and we're doing very well on the calls to the rest."

Danco said, "Prior to January, there was no staff dedicated to interviewing all the veterans who wanted to report incidents that might be related to Gulf War illnesses. The messages piled up until the Pentagon established the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses." The new office started making callbacks in January of this year.

The major part of the work in Danco's office is interviewing veterans about their personal experiences in order to develop a body of factual material that the team of investigators and analysts can use as they try to build the record of what happened during the war that might be related to Gulf War illnesses.

Danco said, "We are very anxious to talk to everyone, but we need current addresses and phone numbers, especially for veterans who called a few months ago. If they have moved and not yet been called, chances are we need a current number. They need to call the Hotline with their new number."

The interviews are sources of information being used by the Office of the Special Assistant as it drafts case narratives detailing incidents and events in the Gulf War that could help us explain the origins and causes of Gulf War illnesses.

Danco urged veterans with any experiences that may be related to Gulf War illnesses to call the Gulf War Hotline at 1-800-472-6719. GulfLINK also has an earlier story on the callback program.