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Monday, April 9, 2012

Veterans' Push for GWI Treatment Research Funding Spreads to U.S. Senate



Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes.com

April 8, 2012


(Washington, DC - 91outcomes.com) - This year's push for funding the Peer Reviewed Gulf War Illness Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP), which last month garnered the largest number of House cosigners in the program's history, continues with a parallel Senate effort led by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and launched on Friday.  


In his letter requesting other U.S. Senators sign on to the "Dear Colleague" letter to Senate appropriations committee leaders and requesting $25 million in Fiscal Year 2013 Defense appropriations to adequately fund the program, Sanders notes, "over the past two years, three dramatic milestones have been achieved," the direct result of broad, bipartisan Congressional support for the program.  


Among those milestones are the 2010 recognition by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) -- essentially the high court of U.S. medical science -- that the Gulf War Illness "affecting 250,000 Gulf War veterans is a serious disease;" that IOM recognized GWI "affects other U.S. military forces;" and that, "the IOM report called for a major national research effort to identify treatments."  


The Sanders letter noted that, "the scientific community has responded with a dramatic increase in the quantity and quality of proposals submitted," to the GWI CDMRP.  According to CDMRP staff, scientific merit review scores for final applications for the most recent year (FY11) had increased on average by a full point since the program's first year (FY06) -- a remarkable achievement in such a short time and on just a five-point scale.  


Sanders also noted that, "most encouraging, GWIRP-funded researchers have completed the first successful pilot study of a medication to treat one of the major symptoms," of GWI -- post-exertional fatigue.  The study's principal investigator, Dr. Beatrice Golomb of the University of California-San Diego, will be presenting her findings to another IOM committee on Thursday, April 12, at the National Academy of Sciences facilities in Irvine, Calif.  

The level of funding proposed by Sanders (and members of the House) would be sufficient to finally accomodate funding for all three highly promising interdisciplinary, inter-institutional GWI medical research consortia that have been in development for the last year, a long-sought goal of Gulf War veterans' health advocates.  


Sanders also notes in his letter that, "continued funding is essential for more pilot studies of promising treatments and diagnostic markers, for clinical trials of treatments shown effective in earlier pilot studies, and for the execution of collaborative treatment research plans developed by consortia of scientists funded in FY2010."


Launched on Friday afternoon after significant behind the scenes work by Senators, Senate staff, and Gulf War veterans' advocates, Sanders' target of $25 million in FY13 Congressionally directed Defense appropriations also carefully coincides with the specifically recommended $25 million funding level by Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on Gulf War Veterans and Health chair Dr. Stephen Hauser  in letters to Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Haw.) and Ranking Member Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.).  It also coincides with the $25 million level recommended by the Congressionally mandated Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses (RAC-GWVI) in its groundbreaking November 2008 report


The FY13 Independent Budget, authored by four of the largest veterans service organizations (VSO's) including DAV, VFW, PVA, and AMVETS and supported by nearly 60 other organizations, contains equally strong support of the GWI CDMRP:  "For FY 2013, the IBVSOs urge Congress to provide the funding level necessary for this research program to achieve the critical objectives of improving the health and lives of Gulf War veterans."


To date, VA research funding officials have tended to fund Gulf War related research proposals by researchers working alone, who must also be VA employees. VA's Office of Research and Development has been invited to collaborate with the GWI CDMRP -- which among other unique and efficient aspects, is open to any researcher anywhere -- to help advance GWI treatments and to ensure more efficient use of resources, particularly with research conducted by VA employees that could be funded through VA's existing mechanisms. CDMRP panelists and RAC members alike have expressed hope that VA might be able to aid in a renewed effort based on more recent evidence helping to unravel some of GWI's previous mysteries, including discoveries of neurological damage, neuro-immune dysregulation, and a chronic inflammatory state in GWI patients.


The three consortia currently in development involve dozens of key researchers from a multitude of research institutions and labs, and are aimed squarely at treatments for Gulf War Illness patients.  Most are not VA employees and are therefore not eligible for VA research funding.


The consensus among GWI medical researchers is increasingly clear, including as publicly expressed by all three RAC scientific directors past and present:  With the right efforts, effective treatments can indeed be found for the neurologically-rooted GWI.   


Gulf War veterans and their advocates were successful in garnering 65 cosigners -- by far the most ever in the history of the program -- on a similar bipartisan effort in the U.S. House of Representatives led in March by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh.) and Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.).  Among the cosignatories was Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), Chair of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.  


After much behind the scenes meeting and coordinating, it is now up to veterans and their advocates to help convince their Senators to sign on to the Sanders "Dear Colleague" request to provide $25 million in FY13 Defense appropriations for the Gulf War Illness Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program.  


The deadline is Wednesday, April 18.






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WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ's)




WHAT IS THE GOAL?


The overall goal is to develop effective treatments for the officially estimated one-quarter million veterans of the 1991 Gulf War along with other U.S. forces who are suffering from the debilitating chronic multi-symptom illness commonly know as Gulf War Illness.
Gulf War veterans were directly impacted by a veritable toxic soup of hazardous exposures during the short but intense war, and deserve every bit as much help as veterans as our nation is giving to those who suffer wartime and other service-related amputations, PTSD, and traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
With the official recognition that GWI also affects other U.S. forces, the impetus for this treatment program has become even broader.  


WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP? 

You can send an web-based message, email, call, or write both of your two elected U.S. Senators.   
If you do, request that he or she sign on to the Sanders "Dear Colleague" letter supporting $25 million in FY13 Defense Appropriations for the Gulf War Illness Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program. 
Each Senator has an option allowing constituents to submi comments from a quick form right on their webpage.  The full listing of U.S. Senators, along with direct links to their web forms, is available from this link.  




IS THERE A LIST OF ALL U.S. SENATORS WITH PHONE NUMBERS?


Yes.  The U.S. Senate maintains a list of all U.S. Senators, including contact information, at:  http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm 
Additionally, a listing that shows which Senators signed on to the FY11 request is available at:   
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Aik6uoBjwDgZdFRUMTV5QkdnX0NCY0hUTE8tV2xkS2c 
If your Senator signed on in the past, tell the staffer that -- they may not know that -- and ask that the Senator simply sign on again as they have in the past.


AT WHAT LEVEL SHOULD THE FUNDING BE SUPPORTED, AND WHY?


Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is requesting $25 million for FY13 for the GWI CDMRP, which coincides with the $25 million recommended in an April 2010 letter by the IOM Gulf War and Health committee chair and in the November 2008 report of the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses (RAC-GWVI).  
This dovetails with the request of many of the nation's largest veterans service organizations in their FY13 Independent Budget (p. 128) and with the level supported by most House cosigners.  
Sanders also notes in his letter that, "continued funding is essential for more pilot studies of promising treatments and diagnostic markers, for clinical trials of treatments shown effective in earlier pilot studies, and for the execution of collaborative treatment research plans developed by consortia of scientists funded in FY2010." 




WHEN CAN I START CONTACTING MY U.S. SENATORS?


Now.




WHEN IS THE DEADLINE? 


The deadline for U.S. Senators to sign on to the Sanders "Dear Colleague" letter is Wednesday, April 18, 2012.




IS THERE A SIMILAR EFFORT IN THE HOUSE?  SHOULD I ALSO CONTACT MY CONGRESSMAN/CONGRESSWOMAN?


A parallel effort in the House for this year, led by U.S. Representatives Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh.) and Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) has already concluded, with 65 cosigners -- the greatest number ever in the brief history of this critically important treatment development program.





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ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS



HASN'T ENOUGH ALREADY BEEN SPENT ON GULF WAR RESEARCH?



According to the November 2008 RAC report (p. 292):  
"As pointed out in the Committee’s 2004 report, if progress in the Gulf War research effort were to be measured by the number of dollars spent, or the number of projects funded, it might be argued that the federal government has mounted an impressive research effort on behalf of ill Gulf War veterans. But the Committee is committed to assessing federal Gulf War research in terms of its scientific merit and progress made in improving the health of ill veterans. Although substantial funding has been allocated for studies identified as “Gulf War research” by federal agencies since 1994, the Committee has identified significant problems related to the effective use and management of these funds."
January 2012 RAC staff analysis found that very little of the funding designated by VA officials as "Gulf War Research" was actually related to GWI or even specific to Gulf War veterans.
In other words, with the exception of this fledgling program -- the earliest of its first year's funded studies are just now beginning to have results -- very little of the federal government's spending on research related to Gulf War veterans and GWI patients has been aimed at treatments to improve their health and lives.




WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT THE GWI CDMRP?


The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP), a Congressionally directed activity funded under the U.S. Department of Defense, has a comprehensive website on the GWI program at:  http://cdmrp.army.mil/gwirp .
 The CDMRP also publishes an overview of the GWI program in its GWIRP program booklet.  






I'M A MEDICAL RESEARCHER, WHEN WILL RESEARCH FUNDING BE AVAILABLE?


The CDMRP provided a GWI research program pre-announcement on Jan. 27, 2012 to allow investigators time to plan and develop applications for FY12 funding. 
Pre-applications are due April 9, and full proposals for those invited to submit them are due July 24.  
Funding for the FY13 program would be available early next year.   

2 comments:

KEY84 said...

Dear 91 Outcomes,
I am writing you to find out about how I can get my husband involved in the research study that you had wrote about in April. He said that he would like to be part of the study. He wanted me to make contact with you. He has so much going on with him that he would really like to have some answers. He was there in the "toxic sand box" How he was before he left and his big rubber mate full of med.recs of unanswered illness's. Like I said he just would like some answers and if could be of any help to any answers to help any veterans with GWI like he said, he would like them continue to use him as a "lab rat" with a greater cause to find a cure. So who would we contact? He really wants to get the ball rolling on this. If you can leave any information for me to contact the right people that would be great. Or you can contact us at the following email address key8440@yahoo.com
Thank you 91 Outcomes for all that you do for getting the information out there to us that are continuing the fight with GWI and wanting answers to this ugly "ILLNESS" that has made everyone's life a living hell for the last 20+ years. You give us encouragement to continue the fight for truth.
Keith and Elaina Capps

KEY84 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.