GW Task Force’s first final report, heavily criticized VA “stress” research, press release expected to be discussed
Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes.com
(91outcomes.com) – The oversight and investigations subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is slated to hold a hearing next week that is expected to include both favorably received and intensely criticized recent VA actions related to Gulf War illness issues.
The hearing, inexplicably entitled, “Gulf War Illness: The Future for Dissatisfied Veterans,” will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, July 27, 2010 in the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing room on Capitol Hill. The hearing is third in a multi-year series that has helped VA to reshape its healt, benefits, and outreach efforts related to Gulf War illnesses.
A recent Institute of Medicine report found that 250,000 veterans of the 1991 Gulf War – more than one-third – continue to suffer from what the IOM termed chronic multisymptom illness (CMI), more commonly known as Gulf War Syndrome or Gulf War Illness.
The IOM also found that rates of PTSD and other psychiatric conditions were much lower than CMI rates in Gulf War veterans, and emphatically stated that the multisymptom illness prevalent in Gulf War veterans could not be attributed to a psychiatric cause, providing further vindication for the hundreds of thousands of Gulf War veterans who have been suffering from debilitating physical conditions for nearly 20 years.
Last August, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki launched a comprehensive internal task force on Gulf War veterans’ illness issues, chaired by VA Chief of Staff John Gingrich, himself a Gulf War veteran.
Earlier this year, VA’s internal Task Force not only released its initial draft report to the public -- unusual for an internal government task force -- but also allowed and requested public comments.
The transparency measures, on an issue that has drawn frustration and hostility for years from ill Gulf War veterans, were well received by the Gulf War veteran community. The measures, from a federal agency previously known more for stonewalling and denial on Gulf War illness issues, renewed hope in many quarters that real change aimed at genuinely providing new improvements in the health and lives of Gulf War veterans is finally on its way.
However, a VA press release this week announcing funding for three Gulf War studies, including one focused on alleviating “stress,” has outraged leaders of several veterans organizations and had a severe, negative impact on that growing good will.
Gulf War veteran leaders have called on the VA to correct a statement in the press release significantly low-balling the number of ill Gulf War veterans and to fix serious procedural violations by VA staff, who entirely bypassed the new VA Gulf War Steering Committee (GWSC) and Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (RACGWVI) in making the inappropriate funding decisions.
While the panelists testifying at the hearing have not yet been officially announced, representatives of Veterans of Modern Warfare (www.vmwusa.com) and Veterans for Common Sense (www.veteransforcommonsense.org) are among those who have been requested to testify.
A final copy of the VA task force’s first report is expected just prior to the upcoming Congressional hearing.
More information on the hearing can be found here: http://veterans.house.gov/hearings/hearing.aspx?NewsID=601.