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War Related Illness and Injury Study Center

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Volunteer for Research at DC WRIISC


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  • Call us at: 800-722-8340

Veteran Studies at DC WRIISC

  • The War Related Illness and Injury Study at Washington, DC Data Repository (DC)

    Principal Investigator: Nate Allen, BS, Timothy Chun, Jeremy Chester, Calvin Lu

    Purpose: This goal of this protocol is to establish a data repository that addresses both the clinical and research mission of the WRIISC. This data repository consists of clinical, administrative, satisfaction and health care utilization data for Veterans who provide informed consent to include their data in the repository and are seen in the DC WRIISC. Clinically, the compilation of this data will allow the DC WRIISC to systematically collect, organize and view complex clinical data for use by practitioners as they formulate diagnoses and recommendations. Additionally, data analysis will guide continuous quality improvement practices within the DC WRIISC. In terms of research, the establishment of a data repository will help us to better define the health concerns of the Veterans we see. By collecting data about the demographic, clinical, and biomedical findings of Veterans seen at the DC WRIISC, we hope to gain insights into the cause, diagnosis, and treatment of conditions that are difficult to diagnose and treat. With the information gathered from a repository, the DC WRIISC will establish future IRB research protocols designed to improve the post-deployment health of these Veterans.

    Eligibility: Veterans who are seen in the DC WRIISC National Referral Program are eligible to participate in this database repository protocol.

  • Multi-modal observational study of Veterans with TBI and varying symptoms (TOS-Study)

    Principal Investigator: Matthew Reinhard, PsyD

    Primary DC WRIISC staff:  Michelle Costanzo, Calvin Lu, Immanuel Samuel, Michelle Prisco, Charity Breneman, Kamila Migdal, and Timothy Chun

    Background: Veterans are frequently exposed to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) before, during, and after their military service. The effects of TBI can vary, but these injuries can affect many different parts of a Veteran’s life. Despite how common TBIs are, symptoms vary and can be difficult to diagnose and treat. In this study we explore the relationship between markers of TBI, military exposures, and health outcomes..  

    Purpose: The purpose of this study is to better understand the structural and functional underpinnings of TBI in Veterans using multi-modal data. It aims to understand the relationship between brain injury and psychological assessments, neural activity, brain structure and functional organization. This study also will explore Veteran perceptions about environmental exposures they may have encountered during their deployment(s).

    Eligibility: Veterans who are seen in the DC WRIISC National Referral Program are eligible to participate in this study.

  • Assessing the Impact of the Washington DC War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (DC WRIISC) Health Coaching Program

    Principal Investigator: Walter Jachimowicz MSN RN CNL NBC-HWC

    Primary DC WRIISC staff:   Walter Jachimowicz, Rebecca McCullers, John Barrett, Timothy Chun, Immanuel Samuel, Rachel Stewart, and Michelle Costanzo

    Background: The human health and economic costs of chronic disease has reached epidemic proportions. Six out of 10 Americans have at least one chronic disease accounting for 50% of the U.S. healthcare expenditure of 3.3 trillion dollars. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) Evidence-based Synthesis Program (ESP) produced a systematic review in 2017 titled, “The Effectiveness of Health Coaching.” It found that 75% of VA users suffer two or more chronic conditions. Health coaching is emerging as a promising intervention to encourage behavior change and lifestyle modification to curb the impact of chronic disease. It is an intervention that incorporates a patient-centered approach, partially self-determined goals with the use of self-discovery and education in collaboration with a coach. The health coaching approach focuses on what is right with the patient and how to expand it; rather than what is wrong and how to fix it.  

    Purpose: The objective of this programmatic effort is to examine the impact of a clinical health coaching intervention intended to augment several factors related to physiological, behavioral, psychological, and social outcomes in treatment-seeking veterans with chronic multi-symptom illness. We hypothesize a veteran-centered health coaching intervention incorporating WRIISC clinical recommendations, self-discovery, education, goal setting, and accountability in relationship with a qualified health coach will significantly improve physical and mental health outcomes for veterans with chronic multi-symptom illness.

    Eligibility: Veterans over the age of 18 approved for receiving clinical care at the DC WRIISC or CA WRIISC are invited to enroll in distance-based health coaching intended to support clinical recommendations provided by the multidisciplinary evaluation team and make appropriate lifestyle changes. All veterans who receive comprehensive evaluations at DC WRIISC or CA WRIISC will be asked to participate in the study and offered to enroll in health coaching.

    To participate: For more information, please contact Walt Jachimowicz 202-763-4346 or view the flyer.

  • Project IN-DEPTH: VA-NIH Investigative Deep Phenotyping (IN-DEPTH) of Gulf War Veteran Health (cIRB 20-34)

    Matthew Reinhard, PsyD; Michelle Costanzo, PhD; Nancy Klimas, MD

    Primary DC WRIISC staff:   Matthew Reinhard, Michelle Costanzo, Arghavan Hamedi, Dina Lyon, Kamila Pollin, Lucas Crock, Alyssa Roach, Diana Ngo, Timothy Chun, John Barrett, Rachel Stewart, Charity Breneman, Immanuel Samuel, Ryan Brewster

    Background: Volunteer from home to improve Gulf War Veterans’ health.

    The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has partnered with National Institutes of Health (NIH) to better understand the complexities of Gulf War Illness (GWI) persistence. In this partnership, the VA is screening volunteers for GWI from their homes; next, NIH conducts an in-depth analysis (“deep phenotyping”) of GWI in the screened VA volunteers.

    Looking closer, this VA study involves 1) volunteer recruitment, 2) health and GWI screenings, 3) interviews to understand living with GWI, 4) computational & systems biology analyses, 5) follow-up care and communications, and 6) data and specimen storage. This helps the VA decide if the volunteer is eligible for NIH deep phenotyping, a separate study. If so, the volunteer is invited to a 12-15-day stay at NIH for clinical exams and testing to understand GWI and its effects on the human body.

    Purpose: The purpose of Project IN-DEPTH, a first-of-its-kind collaboration between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is to understand why many Gulf War Veterans are sick and how we can help improve their health. The goal of this partnership is to:

    • Provide an improved understanding of GWI pathobiology. With this study, there is potential to
      • Advance GWI diagnosis and case definition
      • Provide insight into the biological and molecular signatures of GWI
      • Identify potential treatment targets for GWI
      • Offer a new direction for future GWI research
    • Establish infrastructure and agreements with the NIH that will help build models of investigation that are new to the VA
      • Data sharing with the NIH enables investigations of populations that experience similar symptoms as GWI but have a different diagnosis (such as chronic fatigue syndrome, post-COVID-19 and healthy civilians who are enrolled in other NIH studies). This may improve understanding of what makes people sick for years after an incident such as infection or military exposure.
    • Create a repository for biological samples and data for validation and future studies
      • Generate platforms and procedures for collaboration with the objective to improve patient outcomes, overall health, and quality of life

    Eligibility: GW Veterans who were deployed to ODS/S between August 1990 and June 1991, and aged 48-70 at time of study enrollment are eligible to be screened.

    To participate: For more information, please contact Timothy Chun at 202-286-4826 or email us. Or learn more here.

  • Individualization of an exercise program guided by heart rate variability in Veterans with chronic multi-symptom illness

    Principal Investigator: Michelle Costanzo, PhD

    Primary DC WRIISC staff: Michelle Costanzo, Charity Breneman, Arghavan Hamedi

    Background: Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a measure of the fluctuations in the duration of time between two heartbeats that can be easily calculated from an electrocardiogram (ECG) recording. It is becoming more common for athletes and coaches to use this measure to monitor adaptations to exercise training and to prescribe daily training stimuli. Recent efforts have been made to use this method among untrained, healthy individuals; however, there is a need for additional research among clinical populations, such as those suffering from chronic multi-symptom illness (CMI). HRV may be a way to monitor the day-to-day fluctuations in symptoms experienced by those individuals with CMI and help us to determine which days are ideal for them to exercise at moderate intensity.  

    Purpose: The purpose of this pilot study is to monitor responses to exercise in a group of individuals with CMI. To do this, we plan to compare two exercise programs: a traditional, generalized exercise program and an individualized program that uses heart rate variability (HRV) to modify the intensity level. HRV provides a measure of recovery and will be monitored in both groups to help us understand how exercise may impact chronic symptoms.

    Eligibility: US Veterans who are (1) between 20 to 65 years of age, (2) physically inactive, (3) experiencing pain, fatigue, and/or trouble concentrating, (4) able to exercise independently, (5) do not have a chronic medical condition that would prevent you from exercising, (6) have wi-fi (for data collection purposes), and (7) has a smart phone with a plan that includes the ability to download apps.

    To participate: For more information, please contact Ms. Arghavan Hamedi at (202) 215-8465.