Active Military Members, Veterans Respond to 'A Hidden Epidemic' Investigation

May 22, 2018 08:42 AM

Active service members and veterans from across the country are contacting KSTP following our investigation into the military's use of mefloquine and the story of how it's left a veteran in Duluth partially disabled. 

Shawn Bolf says he was ordered to take mefloquine during his deployment to Afghanistan in 2010 with the 148th Fighter Wing of the Minnesota Air National Guard.

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RELATED: 'A Hidden Epidemic': Investigation Prompts Congressman to Demand Answers after Mefloquine Leaves Minn. Veteran Disabled

There's a grassroots movement across the country to help suffering veterans like Bolf. 

"I've personally triaged about 230 veterans, and gotten them to proper healthcare," Bill Manofsky of Ashville, North Carolina, said.

Manofsky said he watched the investigation on KSTP.com and realized he suffers many of the same symptoms of Bolf. Manofsky said he was given mefloquine during deployment to Kuwait in 2002. He's now dedicated his life to helping fellow sufferers and said he's frustrated with inaction by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense.

"The VA and the DOD have done zero outreach to try and locate people and to help them that's why I exist and I'm still doing it. I've been trying to get the VA to actually do their job," Manofsky said.

In our investigation, we asked the VA how many other veterans have been diagnosed with mefloquine toxicity. A spokesperson said the agency can't tell us because the VA doesn't track it as a specific diagnosis.

"I could be standing in a conversation and find myself on the floor," Bolf said, describing just part of the lasting impact the drug has had on his life.

We also found it took years for VA doctors to conclude mefloquine is the cause of Shawn's lasting symptoms. And, even though a spokesperson from Air Force headquarters said Shawn should have never been given mefloquine since he deployed after the DOD warned about its dangers, an official with the Minnesota Air National Guard denies any wrongdoing.

"Is it possible someone misinterpreted the Air Force memo?" reporter Matt Belanger asked. 

"From my review, looking backwards, I don't believe so," replied Col. Clarice Konshok, commander of the 148th medical group.

"I think they know they have the next Agent Orange," Manofsky said.

Manofsky said he also works closely with Remington Nevin, a Vermont-based doctor who has testified before Congress about what the calls mefloquine's "toxic legacy."

"Given that this was a drug developed by the military at great expense for it to be pushed to the back of the military's medicine cabinet speaks to just how serious a problem the military knows it has on its hands," Nevin said.

Manofsky said he works to connect veterans who are suffering side effects from mefloquine with doctors who are willing to help and he only expects the number to grow.

"I've personally talked 12 veterans out of suicide and one of them was a member in my unit and I request that no one consider that option," he said.


Credits

Matt Belanger

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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