A Senate committee investigating Gulf War syndrome will hold a hearing in Spokane next month, listening to veterans who suffer from the unexplained medical problems.
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee also will ask federal officials to appear at the hearing at Gonzaga University and a companion hearing in Kent, Wash.
Sen. Patty Murray, a member of the panel who has pushed for months for a hearing in her home state, said the two meetings will give local veterans a voice in the committee’s investigation.
“I am tired of the slow trickle of information our vets are getting from the Veterans Administration, the Department of Defense and the CIA,” Murray said Friday in announcing the two hearings.
The committee has received nominations from veterans groups for local participants in the Persian Gulf War who could be witnesses at the hearing, said Rebekka Bonner, a Murray spokeswoman. A list of witnesses for the panel is expected to be announced next week.
Earlier this year, the panel questioned former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell and other top Pentagon officials about the wide range of illnesses veterans are reporting.
The symptoms have variously been linked to low levels of exposure to chemical or biological weapons, smoke from burning oil fields, ammunition and armor made of depleted uranium, heavy use of insecticide or combat-related stress.
Murray said she is regularly approached by Gulf War veterans in Washington state who want the federal government to do something about their medical problems.
She estimated the state has about 35,000 veterans of the 1990-91 conflict in the Middle East.
“Veterans are losing faith in the government’s ability to find the truth about Gulf War syndrome,” she said.
The Seattle Democrat also has expressed concern that veterans who are frustrated with the government might turn to right-wing groups that are trying to exploit the issue.
The Washington state meetings will be the first “field hearings” the panel has conducted on the issue, Bonner said.
“They’ve talked to everybody but vets,” Bonner said.
Invitations to the hearing, 8 a.m. on Aug. 5 at Gonzaga’s Hughes Hall Auditorium, are being sent to veterans organizations and individual veterans.