Saturday, October 13, 2012

Gulf War Research Advisory Committee Meeting Dates Finalized for 2013

Written by Anthony Hardie,

( - The Congressionally chartered Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses (RAC) has finalized its meeting schedule for 2013.

The RAC’s next meeting dates and locations are as follows.  All meetings are open to the public. 

  • February 4-5, 2013 - VA Central Office, Washington, DC 

  • June 17-18, 2013 - Boston University (TBD), Boston, MA 

  • October 28-29, 2013 - VA Central Office, Washington, DC

Due to new VA travel requirements implemented as a result of identified issues regarding VA conference spending, the RAC meeting previously scheduled for December 3-4, 2012 has been cancelled and has been rescheduled for the February 2013 dates noted above.  

The RAC is composed of members appointed by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  The RAC was created by act of Congress in 1998 at the request of Gulf War veterans.  However, even though the law required the committee to be appointed not later than January 1, 1999,  the RAC's first members were not appointed until 2002.  The RAC held its first meeting shortly thereafter, in April 2002, after more than a three year delay by VA that was fought by Gulf War veterans.

The RAC's mission, according to its charter and the act of Congress that created it, is to make recommendations regarding U.S. federal government medical research on Gulf War illnesses.

The RAC is charged with reviewing previous medical research and other relevant medical knowledge, and with making recommendations for future research.  

The charter directs that the fundamental standard against which the RAC should measure research opportunities is whether the research will make a difference to the health of ill veterans.

In 2004, the RAC issued its first major scientific report, Scientific Progress in Understanding Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses: Report and Recommendations.  The report was the first major government report to suggest that Gulf War veterans' chronic multisymptom illness was not only not psychiatric as has been previously alleged by U.S. Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs public relations efforts, but was likely neurological and neurotoxic in nature.  The report had ten major findings and recommendations.  

In 2008, the RAC issued its second major scientific report, Gulf War Illness and the Health of Gulf War Veterans: Scientific Findings and Recommendations.  The report, which included a comprehensive scientific review and analysis, was the first U.S. government report to find that Gulf War Illness is "real," echoing what thousands of ill veterans of the 1991 Gulf War had been saying all along.  The announcement was heralded in news headlines around the globe. The 2008 report discussed probable causes at length and identified promising avenues for treatment research. 

In 2010, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences issued a similar review, finding that the chronic multisymptom illness experienced by approximately 250,000 veterans of the 1991 Gulf War is a unique, physiological (not psychological) diagnostic condition that is likely the result of environmental exposures and genetic factors.  The IOM also found that GWI affects other U.S. forces, and that with appropriate scientific effort, treatments could likely be found.

Despite recommendations in the RAC's 2004 and 2008 reports to monitor the health of Gulf War veterans, VA's Office of Public Health (OPH) has failed to implement a 2008 law requiring VA to contract with the Institute of Medicine to conduct an epidemiological study on the prevalence of multiple sclerosis (MS) in Gulf War and later combat veterans.  Such studies are regularly used to determine service-connection on a "presumptive" basis if an association is found between military service and specific health outcomes.    

The OPH is headed by Dr. Victoria Davey, who attended the RAC's June 19, 2012 meeting in which VA was blasted for its many ongoing failures, including Dr. Davey's failure to implement the 2008 MS law.  The RAC issued a new report lambasting VA, stating that the RAC has, "no confidence in the ability or demonstrated intention of VA staff to formulate and execute an effective VA Gulf War illness research program."  
Scientific findings presented at RAC meetings since its 2008 report have added more details to the earlier findings. Many of the newest findings regarding potential GWI treatment have come from recent medical treatment research funding efforts at the treatment-focused Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program on Gulf War Illness.  

VA officials have recently suggested that new treatment-focused medical research efforts are now underway within VA's Office of Research and Development (ORD).  

However, there appears to be no progress within VA's Office of Public Health in obeying the 2008 law related to MS.  

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