About 30 Percent Of Vets Surveyed Respond To Khamisiyah Questionnaire

WASHINGTON, March *21*, 1997 (GulfLINK) - About 30 percent of the U.S. troops identified as being near Khamisiyah when Iraqi chemical munitions were destroyed after the war have responded to a Pentagon survey requesting information and observations from them.

Col. Larry Cereghino, who is overseeing the survey being conducted by the Pentagon's Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, said his office will shortly begin to mail out second copies of the survey in an effort to boost the response rate above the current 30 percent.

"We never expected to get 100 percent," Cereghino said, "but we want to encourage veterans to help us understand what happened at Khamisiyah. The involvement by veterans in our investigation of what happened in the Gulf is not only useful but extremely important to our effort."

Cereghino said the biggest surprise of the survey responses is how many of the veterans were unaware of the medical evaluation programs available through the Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs. The last question on the survey briefly describes the health programs and asks, "Did you know about these programs . . . ?" Cereghino said more than a third of those responding checked the box saying, "No, I did not know about these programs." Click here for information on health programs.

Cereghino said, "We've had a major effort-radio announcements, pamphlets, notices in publications aimed at vets-to get the word out. It's clear from the survey results that there are a lot of people out there we haven't reached despite all the effort."

The survey itself is aimed at reaching as many people as possible who were in units within 50 kilometers of Khamisiyah, Iraq, during the first two weeks of March 1991. That was the period in which an Army engineer unit was demolishing Iraqi ammunition stocks at Khamisiyah-stocks which later turned out to contain chemical weapons.

The overall purpose of the survey is: to confirm the location of military units during early March 1991; to identify demolition-related events which individuals may have observed; and to identify health problems which individuals believe may be related to service in the Gulf War.

Here are the statistics on the survey effort:

20,300 names of people who served in units within 50 kilometers of Khamisiyah were collected;

19,700 addresses for those people were located and surveys mailed to those 19,700 during January and February;

3,600 envelopes were returned by the Postal Service as undeliverable because the addresses were wrong or the addressee had moved and a forwarding address was no longer available;

16,100 surveys were delivered; and

6,000 responses have been received, a response rate of about 30 percent.

Cereghino said it is certain that some veterans who were near Khamisiyah are not being reached-because the Postal Service could not deliver the survey, or because their names are not on the records of units in the area, or because the services records don't show tgeir unit in the area. He asked veterans with relevant information on Khamisiyah and who have not received a mailed survey to call the incident reporting hotline at 1-800-472-6719.

The VA medical program for Gulf War vets is called the Persian Gulf Veterans' Health Registry and is reachable at 1-800-PGW-VETS. The Defense Department program for Gulf War veterans still in uniform is called the Comprehensive Clinical Evaluation Program (CCEP) and is reachable at 1-800-796-9699.