Medical Records Team Returns to St. Louis

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 1999 (GulfLINK) - A team of medical issues experts will return to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis in October to recover additional Gulf War inpatient records. Since their initial visit, team members from the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses have located and catalogued more than 25,000 inpatient records from Operations Desert Shield and Storm.

In early October, a three-member team will travel to the records center where all military hospital records are eventually gathered, categorized and stored. This two-week long record search, like the previous two trips, will focus on documents that recently arrived at the records center or that have recently been indexed there. Records include medevac histories and other hospitalization and clinic records which might help veterans file service-related claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"This is the last known group of Desert Shield and Storm records," said Mike Boyle, medical issues team leader with the special assistant's office. "We will look over records that the Air Force recently located at Langley. We'll also review records from aircraft carriers and an Army hospital in Heidelberg, Germany."

The scope of the review focuses on 150 cubic feet of stored records which can include up to 7,000 previously unchecked files. From these files, the team expects to add approximately 300 more records to the current database.

Inpatient records are first categorized by hospital, then by servicemember's social security number, and can make locating specific patient records difficult. It takes effort and coordination to literally examine and inventory every record, said Boyle.

Unlike individual medical records, which are sent to the Department of Veterans Affairs when a servicemember retires or separates from service, hospitalization and medevac records are retained at the treating or transferring facility. Later, these records are forwarded to the NPRC in St. Louis - typically within five years but even that is dependent on the service's records disposition policies. Occasionally, additional files are located well after a typical archiving schedule.

"After our last visit, we asked the services to look again. The Air Force was able to locate these additional boxes and forwarded them to St. Louis," said Boyle.

In addition to these records, approximately 200 others already in the database needed updating, Boyle said. Team members from the special assistant's office found entries that listed wrong social security numbers or names. This misidentification could have prevented the team from helping a servicemember locate his or her record.

"We continue to review our database and correct it. We are also contemplating other data collection, capture and coding projects," he said.

Veterans seeking help in locating Gulf War inpatient records should call the direct hotline for Gulf War veterans at (800) 497-6261. A medical records information paper and details on previous efforts to locate records is available on the GulfLINK web-site ( ).