JUNE 11, 2014. WASHINGTON, D.C. Peter Sullivan, Chair of the Sergeant Sullivan Center Science and Policy Advisory Panel, provided a statement today to the Defense Health Board Public Health Subcommittee regarding deployment related lung injuries and illnesses. Rosie Torres, Executive Director of Burnpits360, also attended and provided a statement.
“The time is well past due for the President and the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to acknowledge officially that there is a growing health crisis affecting the veterans of our Nation’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Peter in his written statement. “Amputations of limbs, traumatic brain injury, PTSD (and to some extent suicide) are often referred to by DOD and VA spokesmen as ‘signature wounds’ of these wars. By and large both departments have taken positive action to address them. This cannot be said of the hundreds of thousands of former and current service members who suffer from the other significant, albeit invisible wounds -‐-‐ the diminution of their health due to likely toxic exposures while deployed.”
“With help from others, I co-founded Burn Pits 360, an organization designed to advocate for service members suffering from respiratory disease and other illnesses post deployment,” said Torres. “Our organization has over 3500 registered members who believe they have illnesses related to airborne exposures during OEF and OIF. 90% report respiratory symptoms. Many have stories similar to [my husband] Leroy. They have significant limitations and illnesses and too often their medical issues have been dismissed.”
Torres’ husband, Army Captain Le Roy Torres, was told he was suffering from anxiety when he went to a War Related Illness and Injury Study Center operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). A lung biopsy conducted outside of the VA later revealed that he was suffering from constrictive bronchiolitis, a rare and disabling lung disease associated with inhalation of toxins.
Peter’s son, Marine Corps Sergeant Thomas Sullivan, for whom The Sergeant Sullivan Center is named, was diagnosed with a ‘somatoform’ disorder by military healthcare providers six months before he died. An autopsy revealed serious damage to his heart, brain, and lungs, among other organ systems, which was never detected while he was alive. The organ damage was consistent with that associated with some toxic exposures.
“Official acknowledgement of these apparent toxic wounds as additional ‘signature wounds’ of our recent wars is an indispensable first step to treating the affected veterans with the dignity and professional care they deserve for their sacrifice,” said Peter in his written statement.
Read Peter Sullivan’s Written Statement: SSC-DHB-Final (6-9-14)
Read Rosie Torres’ Written Statement: DHB Torres Statement