Today, November 11, is Veterans Day in the U.S., and a good time to highlight veterans’ issues. U.S. veterans and current military service members who have been deployed in the Persian Gulf/Southwest Asia region at any time since 1990 have been shown by multiple studies to be at even higher risk of IBS and other functional GI disorders than the general population. Conservative estimates put the incidence of functional GI disorders in the general population as 25%, most commonly irritable bowel syndrome. For veterans and military service members of the Persian Gulf era, the estimate may reach as high as 40%. This appears to be in part because of the high incidence of known functional GI risk factors during active duty, such as severe stress or trauma and/or food or water contamination that results in post-infectious IBS (IBS-PI) or other post-infectious functional GI and motility disorders.
Here is IBS Impact’s August 12, 2011 post on the recognition two years ago by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs of irritable bowel syndrome and functional gastrointestinal disorders as presumptive service connected disabilities for Gulf War veterans.
IFFGD and its grassroots arm, the Digestive Health Alliance, have done considerable work in the past few years in advocating for federal funding and other legislative needs specific to veterans, conducting outreach to service members and veterans and encouraging those affected by functional GI and motility disorders to participate in veteran-specific self-advocacy efforts. Since fiscal year 2012, functional GI disorders have been included in the Department of Defense Gulf War Illness Research Program,which is part of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program. However, advocacy from the veteran community must occur on an ongoing basis for funding to be continued each fiscal year. Efforts for fiscal year 2014 are now underway.
The Digestive Health Alliance also provides a private, invitation-only online community for veterans with functional GI disorders to seek support and information from DHA and their peers. Further information on all of these activities and resources can be found on the Digestive Health Alliance page for veterans.
IBS Impact encourages veterans, service members and families in the IBS and functional GI community to inform themselves on these resources and to consider participating in self-advocacy activities, and we look forward to feedback from readers as to how IBS Impact may be able to support such efforts further.