War Related Injury and Illness Study Centers established to conduct research on veterans from any era or conflict.

Jacob B. Gadd, American Legion deputy director for Healthcare, recently visited the War Related Injury and Illness Study Center (WRIISC) at the D.C. VA Medical Center. The Department of Veterans Affairs established WRIISCs in 2001 to primarily conduct research on the Persian Gulf War. The WRIISC now serves veterans from any era or conflict with war-related illnesses and injuries through clinical assessments, education and research. There are currently three WRIISC locations across the country – Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center, East Orange VA Medical Center and Palo Alto, Calif., VA Medical Center. These sites conduct studies and/or evaluations and assessments on patients within their respective geographical regions.

During the site visit, Gadd met with Dr. Matthew Reinhard, director for the D.C. VA Medical Center WRIISC. Reinhard said one of the primary mission’s of the center is “to provide a second opinion resource on diagnosis or treatment for patients.” Reinhard added that “VA medical center providers can have veteran patients referred and flown in from other states to stay at the D.C. VA Medical Center or other WRIISC location for three to five days and receive a full evaluation, diagnosis and treatment plan – similar to the Mayo Clinic.” Patients are seen by the full WRIISC staff, including physicians, nurses and other specialty staff which provide an interdisciplinary and holistic approach to treatment.

In addition to providing clinical assessments, the WRIISC conducts research in basic science, physiological, neuroimaging, behavioral health, clinical treatment trial, health services, and complementary and alternative medicine. One example of its research is the study MIND: Markers for the Identification, Norming and Differentiation of TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). The study was approved and funded in 2009 to develop evidence-based diagnostic criteria and distinguish between TBI and PTS. Dr. Julie Chapman, director of Neuroscience for the WRIISC, is the principal investigator for the MIND study; participants will begin to be enrolled this fall. The study will be held in several VA medical centers and in cooperation with the other WRIISC sites, with a total of 800 Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans. On the MIND brochure created by the WRIISC is a summary of the study that states, “the MIND study aims to integrate a very large data set of multimodal, interdisciplinary measures to comprehensively describe TBI and PTSD in in veterans, build prediction models, identify objective measures that bolster diagnostic criteria and illuminate potential mew therapies.

The American Legion’s Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission will continue to work closely with the WRIISC to receive updates on research, such as the MIND study, and best practices in treatment. For more information about WRIISCs, go to their website at http://www.warrelatedillness.va.gov.