Ill Gulf War Veterans Demand Action from US Senate

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US House of Representatives, and President and First Lady -Part 1

 

by Denise Nichols

 

The VA Research Advisory Committee meeting from June 18-19 in Boston was a firestorm that has been ignited. Our elected officials in the US Senate and US House of Representatives and the President and First Lady need to hear what happenned and put this issue as a PRIORITY. The Gulf War Veterans of 1990-91 have waited for 21 years and can not wait any longer for effective action! WE are ill and dying and need effective action. The VA Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illness Research was set in action by a law generated and accomplished through Gulf War Veterans Advocacy actions. WE are the ones that are ill and the primary stake holhers in this issue. We encourage everyone to get this message to all elected officials!

The VA RAC GWIR Report is included without attachments but the intent and information is there for all to read. The Basic report that was given follows:

Draft Recommendation, Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses, June 19, 2012

The Institute of Medicine, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and the United States Congress want to find treatments for Gulf War illness, the chronic multisymptom disease that destroys the quality of life of 250,000 Gulf War Veterans and threatens current and future troops subject to similar risks.

The 2010 Institute of Medicine Gulf War and Health Report called for “a renewed research effort with substantial commitment to well-organized efforts to better identify and treat multisymptom illness in Gulf War veterans.” (PP.260-261)

“Veterans who continued to suffer from these discouraging symptoms deserve the very best that modern science and medicine can offer….to speed the development of effective treatments, cures, and, it is hoped preventions…..We believe that, through a concerted national effort and rigorous scientific input, answers can likely be found” (p. x)

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki declared on Feb.27,2010, “at VA we advocate for Veterans-it is our overarching philosophy and, in time, it will become our culture.”

“This new approach is the first step in a still unfolding comprehensive plan of how VA will treat and compensate Veterans of the Gulf War era.”

In the Veterans Benefit Act of 2010, Congress directed VA to enter into an agreement with the Institute of Medicine “to carry out a comprehensive review of the best treatments for chronic multisymptom illness in Persian Gulf War veterans.”

“Under this agreement, the Institute of Medicine shall convene a group of medical professionals who are experienced in treating individuals who served as members of the Armed Forces in the Southwest Asia Theater of Operations of the Persian Gulf War during 1990 or 1991 and who have been diagnosed with chronic multisymptom illness or another health condition related to chemical and environmental exposure that may have occurred during such service.”(Public Law 111-275)

Some VA central office staff members disagree. They say, “Not on my watch.”

They have cut the budget for VA Gulf War illnesses research by two-thirds for FY2013, from $15.0 to $4.86 million. This cut was never discussed with the Research Advisory Committee, which was established by Congress to provide independent advice to the Secretary on proposed Gulf War health research plans. Of the $15.0 million budgeted and approved bythe Secretary and Congress for FY 2012, staff has spent $4.98 million. AppendixA

They have changed the Gulf War Illness Research Strategic Plan so that they are not obligated to spend even this $4.86 million on GulfWar illness research. They can spend it on any illness found in Gulf War veterans, however few. In addition to gutting the strategic plan financially, they have eliminated the urgency, commitment, focus, and follow up called for by the IOM and the working groups of VA staff and outside advisors who wrote the original plan. The new draft of the plan is not effective and is not recommended as it currently stands. Appendix B

They have misrepresented to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and to Congress the amount of research dollars being spent on Gulf War health, by including studies that have little or nothing to do with Gulf War veterans and by loading the Gulf War totals with the entire amount of studies that address problems common to veterans of all eras, although Gulf War veterans constitute a tiny fractions of these veterans. Appendix C.

They have transformed the new Institute of Medicine treatment study into a literature review by an inexpert committee that has been indoctrinated to believe that Gulf War illness is, or may be, psychiatric, when science has conclusively shown it is not, including the IOM’s own 2010 report. The obvious purpose is to manipulate the new IOM committee into reachinga conclusion that reverses the 2010 report and misdirects future treatment and research. This result is the exact opposite from the intent of Congress in ordering the report. Appendix D.

They have refused to conduct the IOM epidemiological study ordered by Congress to determine the rate of multiple sclerosis in Gulf War veterans. Appendix E

They have commissioned a mammoth survey of Gulf War era veterans that omits the questions necessary to identify multisymptom illness and includes excessive questions on stress and anxiety. Such an approach is designed to produce psychiatric findings, while minimizing multisymptom illness, the signature health problem of the 1990-91 war. In research, the answers you get depend on the questions you ask. Appendix F

These actions repeat the pattern of the last twenty years, as has been well documented in Congressional reports. EG., “Gulf War Veterans Illnesses: VA, DOD Continue to Resist Strong Evidence Linking Toxic Causes to Chronic Health Effects,” Nov1997. Appendix G.

Today, these actions must be recognized for what they are. Reversing the recommendation of the Institute of Medicine is bad science. Undermining the policy of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs is insubordination. Twisting the intent of Congress is law breaking. Misrepresenting information to the Secretary and to Congress is lying.

They have said, “Not on my watch.” So be it.

The Research Advisory Committee has no confidence in the ability or desire of VA central office staff to formulate and execute an effective VA Gulf War illness research program. Staff particularly includes the Office of Research and Development, the Office of Public Health, and Department of Defense personnel from the Office of Force Health Protection and Readiness who interface with them. Many individual VA researchers are doing excellent work, and some staff members are well intentioned, but they are not the ones calling the shots.

The Committee recommends that the obstructive actions outlined above be thoroughly investigated to identify the individuals responsible and that appropriate actions be taken to remove them from positions of authority and influence over Gulf War illness research. Until this occurs, the prospect of meaningful progress is illusory

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