Digestive Health Issues Impacting Military Personnel

The onset of a functional GI disorder can be triggered by severe stress and infections of the digestive tract. Deployed military personnel face an elevated chance of experiencing these risk factors and developing a Functional GI Disorder as a result of their service. The challenges of deployment and combat situations can be incredibly stressful, and digestive tract infections are common in areas outside the U.S. where living conditions may be less than ideal. The service connection of these conditions has been extensively studied and, most recently, a 2010 Institute of Medicine report, entitled Gulf War and Health: Health Effects of Serving in the Gulf War, identified functional GI disorders along with 3 other multi-symptom illnesses present in veterans as related to their service during the Gulf War.

The majority of functional GI disorders are painful, debilitating, and chronic. Long after a soldier’s tour is over, and the stress or infection subsides, the functional GI disorder and its symptoms can remain. It is for this reason that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes that there is a “presumption of service connection” for veterans suffering with Functional GI Disorders following their service during the Gulf War.

Members of Congress Can Help

The Department of Defense (DOD) conducts important research into medical conditions that impact veterans and active-duty military personnel through its Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP). The annual Defense Appropriations Bill identifies and outlines which conditions the CDMRP should be studying for the fiscal year. Legislators from both chambers can request that the fiscal year (FY) 2016 Defense Appropriations Bill include language that directs the CDMRP to provide support for Functional GI Disorders research.

The CDMRP only conducts research into conditions that are identified as “eligible for study” within the annual Defense Appropriations Bill. Functional GI disorders have been included as a condition eligible for study in the CDMRP's Gulf War Illness Research Program since fiscal year (FY) 2012, and we want to see this continue in FY 2016.