More Inpatient Hospital Records Found

WASHINGTON, November 29, 1999 (GulfLINK) - A medical issues team from the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses identified more than 2,600 additional inpatient hospital records during their return visit to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis in October. During the visit, the three-person team reviewed 11,000 recently retired medical records from Langley Air Force Base, the Nuremberg Army hospital, and Navy aircraft carriers USS Saratoga and USS Independence. The team hopes their efforts will help veterans who require records to file service-related claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"This was a highly successful trip because it's the first time we located records from aircraft carriers and the first U.S. hospital to set up in the Gulf in August 1990," said Mike Boyle, medical issues team leader with the special assistant's office. "The Nuremberg hospital was one of the main hospitals that received evacuated servicemembers from the theater of operations."

During the two-week search, the team sifted through 160 boxes of archived hospital treatment records. The team focused on identifying records of Gulf War patients and categorizing information according to name, social security number, admission and discharge data.

"We found more records than we expected and we intend to go back and complete the job" said Boyle.

In addition to this retrieval effort, the team is still searching for records from four large contingency hospitals in Europe and several other hospitals from the Gulf. In essence, the search is never finished as long as additional records are found, Boyle said.

Tracking inpatient records of Gulf War veterans can be a formidable exercise. A servicemember may have received treatment in different facilities in the medical evacuation chain resulting in the creation of multiple records. When records are retired to the National Personnel Records Center, they are categorized by the name of the hospital, not in the individual's name. Veterans seeking their medical records would have to know the name of the facility that treated them during the war in order to obtain the record from the hospital or the National Personnel Records Center. The lack of a standardized method among the services on how these records are retired adds further complication to the deposition and storage procedures.

With the assistance of the National Personnel Records Center staff and service medical records advisors, team members have accounted for more than 25,000 inpatient records from Operations Desert Shield and Storm since their initial visit.

The team is entering the new information into the database and believes this process will be completed in mid-December. Veterans seeking help in locating Gulf War inpatient records should call the toll-free number at (800) 497-6261. A medical information paper and details on previous efforts to locate records is also available on Gulflink.