Friday, December 16, 2011

DoD Chemical Exposure Registry Dies in Conference Committee

(  The establishment of a voluntary chemical exposure registry was among the provisions not adopted by the Congressional conference committee on the FY12 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, not to be confused with the annual Defense Appropriations Act).

The House version of the bill contained a provision (sec. 732) that would have required the Secretary of Defense to report on establishing a registry for members of the armed forces exposed to occupational and environmental hazards during contingency operations.

The Senate amendment contained no similar provision.  

During the conference committee to rectify differences between the two bills, the House receded, allowing the provision to die.

The 1991 Gulf War veterans community -- exposed to a veritable toxic soup during the six-week war that left more more than 200,000 on the disability rolls and as many as one-third suffering from debilitating chronic multi-symptom illness, popularly called Gulf War Illness or Gulf War Syndrome -- has made "never again" a pillar of its advocacy for most of the last two decades.  

This additional bipartisan failure, instigated by a failure of the U.S. Senate to take appropriate and needed action, is another disappointing, inexplicable, and fully preventable outcome from this year's heavily criticized Congress.  

Coming on the heels of the NDAA conference report killing the occupational and environmental hazards registry was the final appropriations conference committee agreement.  

The Senate's earlier bipartisan vote to eliminate most of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs focused on treatments and aid for service-related health outcomes resulted in a conference committee receding to the more conservative House recommendations. For Gulf War veterans, this left the acclaimed Congressionally directed, peer-reviewed Gulf War Illness Research Program (CDMRP GWIRP) at the FY08 funding level and setting into motion the probable destruction of two of three highly promising, inter-institutional medical research "consortia" previously given an initial go ahead by the federal government.

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) killed a $75 million Congressionally directed consortia program led by Dr. Robert Haley at the University of Texas-Southwestern.

-Anthony Hardie
Madison, Wis.

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