Federal Committee Says "No Confidence" in VA on Gulf War Illness
Despite all the best promises and intentions, actions speak louder than words: VA has again broken Gulf War veterans’ trust.
Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes.com
(91outcomes.com) - A scathing new report publicly released this week by a federal advisory panel blasts the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for new failures related to caring for veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.
The report, by the Congressionally chartered Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (RAC), reveals independent experts’ and veterans' anger at VA over the agency’s failure to begin treatment for the estimated 250,000 veterans suffering from Gulf War illness (GWI).
And, at the panel’s Boston meeting on June 19, 2012, one Gulf War veteran RAC member stormed out of the meeting in protest -- and another separately discussed resignation with the chair, also in protest -- of VA’s catastrophic failures to conduct research and assist ill Gulf War veterans. Numerous veterans in the audience and attending by phone also vocalized their anger and frustration.
At the meeting, the committee voted to approve the report, publicly released this week on the body's website, stating the panel has “no confidence” in VA’s “ability or demonstrated intention,” to help veterans with GWI associated with hazardous toxic exposures during the war.
A landmark 2010 study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) confirmed GWI is a unique diagnosis, is physical (not psychiatric) in nature, and affects about 250,000 veterans of the 1991 Gulf War and other U.S. forces. IOM urged “a renewed research effort with substantial commitment to well-organized efforts,” to diagnose and treat GWI. Congress quickly followed with additional mandates to launch research.
The RAC’s 46-page “no confidence” report details a litany of examples of VA’s “failure to acknowledge that the central health problem of this war even exists:”
VA Misdirected Gulf War Illness Research, focusing on efforts against Gulf War veterans rather than working to improve our health;
VA Misrepresented Scientific Conclusions About GWI and the effort being made to address it, including whitewashing GWI out of a major, groundbreaking, consensus-developed strategic plan that had previously been aimed squarely at GWI treatments
VA Ignored Public Panels (such as the RAC), including in a major national study that ignored GWI and instead focused largely on long discredited "stress" and psychological issues
VA Slashed GWI Research Budget by two-thirds, from $15 million per year to less than $5 million per year
VA Failed to Follow Law (1), by not contracting with the IOM to research multiple sclerosis among Gulf War veterans, as mandated by Congress.
VA Failed to Follow Law (2), by not researching treatments for physical ailments as mandated by Congress, instead focusing on scientifically discredited “stress” and psychiatric theories, in a new IOM "treatment" panel created this year.
The release of the RAC’s 2008 report, and the IOM’s 2010 study showed not only that GWI is real -- what Gulf War veterans had been saying all along -- but that effective treatments could be found, bringing much hope to many distraught service-disabled veterans.
However, the RAC report paints the picture of a VA that has, by oversight or design, betrayed veterans in a bureaucratic travesty impacting 250,000 Gulf War veterans and their families.
The report has been sent to the VA Secretary's office and the White House, which have not yet made a response.