Monday, December 19, 2011
Response to Misleading Blog Post on GWI Funding
A new blogging outreach efforts included a misleading article this week related to the recent CDMRP GWI funding issue. (SEE: http://vabenefitblog.com/new-research-for-gulf-war-syndrome-approved/#comment-1641)
The following was my response:
I would like to correct several misleading statements in this article.
First, this funding is not "different than recent ventures". This particular program has been funded by Congress each year since FY06 (except FY07, when there was only a partial continuing budget). Funding levels are detailed in this article: http://www.91outcomes.com/2011/12/military-medical-research-programs.html
Next, the research attribution is wildly incorrect. First, the causation suggestion was by the Congressionally chartered U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses (RAC-GWVI), on which I am honored to serve, and was contained in its Nov. 17, 2008 report (available online free for the excellent read at: http://www.va.gov/RAC-GWVI/Committee_Documents.asp).
Rather than as this article incorrectly states, the RAC's actual statements regarding causation by the listed chemical (organophosphates) were not nearly as definitive as this article states, the insecticides involved were not limited to "sprays", and did not rule out a number of other potential causative factors among the array of known hazardous exposures known or believed to have been experienced by 1991 Gulf War troops.
Having heard countless directly involved medical researchers make statements that they believe effective treatments are, indeed within reach, I do fully agree with the statement that this important, peer-reviewed, treatment-focused DoD CDMRP research is, "giving promise that the work being done isn’t in vain."
The statement that "one in four" Gulf War veterans has developed the listed symptoms is also not entirely accurate. In actuality, current RAC and IOM estimates are that *between* one-fourth and one-third (a substantially larger number) continue to suffer chronic multi-symptom illness symptoms. The IOM's actual estimate works out to be 250,000 of the 696,842 Gulf War troops continue to suffer from CMI. Therefore, the "or" in the long list of symptoms is also misleading since the definition of CMI requires one to suffer from multiple symptoms in order to meet the definition.
Finally, I deeply respect and revere Jim Binn, and will remain eternally grateful to him for his unpaid efforts supporting Gulf War veterans. However, the statement (perhaps a misstatement?) regarding a strong Congressional commitment to Gulf War veterans is incomplete.
Earlier this Fall, the U.S. Senate utterly and abjectly failed Gulf War and countless other veterans when nearly one-third of its members voted earlier this Fall -- on 30-0 bipartisan basis in the Senate Committee on Approprriations -- to *eliminate* this and nearly every other critically important and largely uniquely focused Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP). Like most informed, engaged, and involved members of the Gulf War veteran advocacy community, I'm deeply relieved and grateful for the efforts of U.S Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh.), U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine), and a substantial number of their House colleagues, who worked hard to end up with a bipartisan 2/3 floor vote this Summer to fund the CDMRP GWI program at $10 million -- the ultimate funding level for this program determined in Conference Committee.
However, the INEXCUSABLE, ABJECT FAILURE of the U.S. Senate -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- must not be whitewashed away. Were it not for the conservative House, this program would have died entirely, along with countless other equally important CDMRP military medical research programs.
And, while I'm relieved and grateful, this legislative victory is certainly no reason to celebrate. The result of the U.S. Senate's abject, INEXCUSABLE failure is that two out of three broad inter-institutional research efforts currently in the works that all show great potential for unravelling major portions of better understanding and treating GWI, *WILL* DIE THIS YEAR.
Had the U.S. Senate acted, had either House of Congress followed the recommendation of the clear, thoughtful recommendations of both the RAC and the revered IOM and funded the program at between $25 and $40 million as recommended, this tragic outcome in a long line of tragic outcomes negatively affecting the largely forgotten but very large GWI veteran-patient community could have been easily avoided. Six of the other CDMRP programs exceeded $25 million in funding. Twelve of the 23 funded CDMRP programs exceeded GWI funding.
In short, Gulf War veterans should be relieved that they weren't *entirely* forgotten in this omnibus Congressional spending frenzy, but should rightfully hold their U.S. Senators accountable for the abject failure that nearly led to the demise of the GWI and countless other critically needed CDMRP's, and will now result in the untimely death of two of the currently pending, highly promising three consortia research efforts already initiated.
In short, this could have been much worse, and the result is somewhat of a relief. And, I'm forever grateful to those House Members who did stand up and support Gulf War veterans. But, we must not forget the one-third of House Members who voted AGAINST this program, and the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee members for their abject and utterly unacceptable failure to care for this large cohort of war veterans who bore the battle and they have simply chosen to forget.
www.91outcomes.com - Health and News for 1991 Gulf War Veterans