Friday, December 10, 2010

Legislative Update: Current Status of DoD Gulf War Illness Research Funding Remains Volatile


Written by Anthony Hardie,

( – Just like last year, monitoring Congressional appropriations actions for the FY11 peer reviewed Gulf War Illness (GWI) research program administered under the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) and efforts to ensure the program’s funding success remain highly challenging. Gulf War Illness Program Booklet

As of today, it appears that both House and Senate actions suggest final GWI CDMRP funding for FY11 might be at $8 million, the same level as FY10. However, it should be noted that the situation continues to change rapidly. As always there are no guarantees until the entire Congress sends a final bill to the President.

Continued careful monitoring, combined with veterans advocates and organizations at the ready to contact key members of Congress, will be required.


On Wednesday, December 8, 2010, the House narrowly passed by a vote of 212-206 a Continuing Resolution (CR) that provides -- with various unrelated exceptions -- continued FY11 appropriations at FY10 levels, through September 30, 2011.

Under the CR, funding for the GWI program administered by the CDMRP reportedly would be retained at the FY10 funding level of $8 million.

Thirty-five House Democrats sided with 171 House Republicans in voting against the CR, while Eight Democrats and eight Republicans did not vote. This deep division suggests that future prospects for a final omnibus appropriations bill after Senate and conference action may also be challenging.


The Senate appropriations committee’s FY11 Defense appropriations act report language, which provides detailed funding by line item, directs $8 million for the Peer Reviewed Gulf War Illness Research Program.

The funding was requested in a letter by Senators Sanders, Bond, Feingold, Kerry, Tester, Schumer, Leahy, Durbin, Burris, Brown, Boxer, Snowe, and Kohl.

The Senate bill passed out of committee on September 16, 2010 by an 18-12 vote. Like all the other FY11 appropriations bills, the defense appropriations bill was not considered by the full Senate. However, it may very well remain a guide for future Senate action as discussed below.

Under the report accompanying the Senate bill, total appropriations for the military medical research programs currently operated by the CDMRP would be $358 million. In addition to the GWI appropriation, $150 million would be designated for peer reviewed research on breast cancer, $10 million for ovarian cancer, $80 million for prostate cancer, $60 million for psychological health and traumatic brain injury (TBI), and $50 million for the multifaceted peer reviewed medical research program (PRMRP).


It is currently expected that the Senate will combine the House’s CR into a Senate omnibus appropriations bill. Any action must be completed by the end of the current Congress on January 3, 2011.

Additionally, the FY11 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) remains an unknown variable in the legislative equation. It remains unclear whether or not the NDAA will pass before the current Congress ends and what impact, if any, an enacted NDAA might have on the CDMRP’s GWI research program.


Looking Back at Last Year: Who to Call

Last year, retaining funding for the Gulf War Illness research program was, as usual, extremely challenging for the handful of veterans advocates and organizations involved.

Initially, the Senate version of the FY10 Defense Appropriations Act lumped Gulf War Illness under the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP), a catch-all that included more than two dozen conditions including GWI and funded at just $50 million. While the PRMRP restricts research to the listed conditions, there is no guarantee that research will be funded for any particular condition from among those listed.

Initially, the House failed to include funding for the GWI program at all.

However, as the bill went back and forth between the House and Senate, advocacy efforts resulted in amendments to the final bills in both chambers and final FY10 GWI funding at $8 million.

A last minute save on October 1, 2009 by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and four of his colleagues amended (SA 2559) the Senate’s bill to include an amendment that would have appropriated $12 million for the GWI program. Those Senators included Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Oh.).

And, a December 11, 2009 letter by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh.) and 25 other Members of Congress called for the conference committee to fund the CDMRP’s GWI research program at the Senate’s $12 million level.

Ultimately, the conference committee set final funding for the FY10 GWI program at the original, lower House level of $8 million. Both the House and Senate agreed and the final Defense funding bill was enacted by the President.

GWI research supporters Sanders, Durbin, and Brown remain in the Senate.

However, Byrd died on June 28, 2010 and is being succeeded by former West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Feingold was defeated in the November 2010 election and is being succeeded by Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), a Tea Party favorite.

GWI research funding supporters who signed onto the December 2010 Kucinich letter included the following. Of the 21 who remain in Congress, only four are Republicans, who will hold the majority in the House beginning January 3, 2011.  
  • Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)
  • Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.)
  • Rep. John Boccieri
  • Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.)
  • Rep. Henry Brown, Veterans’ Affairs Health Subcommittee Ranking Member
  • Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.)
  • Rep. Steve Buyer, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member
  • Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.)
  • Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair
  • Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Tex.)
  • Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.)
  • Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.)
  • Rep. John Hall
  • Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.)
  • Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh.)
  • Rep. Steve LaTourette (D-Oh.)
  • Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.)
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.)
  • Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine), Veterans’ Affairs Health Subcommittee Chair
  • Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.)
  • Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)
  • Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.)
  • Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.)
  • Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-Oh.)
  • Rep. Timothy Walz (D-Minn.)
  • Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska)


PRMPR research areas in the Senate bill would include the 32 conditions listed below. Four that are particularly relevant to Gulf War veterans are highlighted. The House CR would retain the list the same as in FY10. It should be noted that the final outcome remains indeterminate.
  1. amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS),
  2. autism,
  3. blood cancer,
  4. chronic fatigue syndrome,
  5. chronic migraine and post-traumatic headache,
  6. dental research,
  7. drug abuse,
  8. epidermolysis bullosa,
  9. epilepsy,
  10. fragile x syndrome,
  11. inflammatory bowel disease,
  12. interstitial cystitis,
  13. kidney cancer,
  14. lupus,
  15. melanoma,
  16. mesothelioma,
  17. multiple sclerosis (MS),
  18. neuroblastoma,
  19. neurofibromatosis,
  20. osteoporosis and related bone disease,
  21. Paget's disease,
  22. pancreatitis,
  23. Parkinson's,
  24. pediatric cancer,
  25. pheochromocytoma,
  26. polycystic kidney disease,
  27. post-traumatic osteoarthritis,
  28. scleroderma,
  29. social work research,
  30. tinnitus,
  31. tuberous sclerosis complex, and
  32. vision research.

§ FY11 House Continuing Resolution (CR) for combined FY11 appropriations: H.R. 3082 [Would fund GWIRP at $8 million]

§ Senate FY11 Defense Appropriations Act, S. 3800 [Would fund GWIRP at $8 million]

§ Senate FY11 Defense Appropriations Act Committee Report, S. Rpt 111-295 [Would fund GWIRP at $8 million]

§ FY10 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), PL 111-84 [Authorized GWIRP at $12 million]

§ FY10 Defense Appropriations Act Explanatory Statement (essentially the conference report), p. 367 [Funded GWIRP at $8 million]

No comments: