Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Documents Detail Ongoing VA Failures on Gulf War Veterans' Health

(91outcomes.com) - After a long wait, detailed meeting minutes of the most recent meeting of the Congressionally chartered Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses (RAC) have been publicly released.  

The June 18-19, 2012 meeting of the body, currently housed under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), was highly contentious.  For the first time, the meeting minutes show in painful detail how RAC members spent much of their time during the two days of meetings highlighting serious research, management, and oversight failures at VA related to the health of Gulf War veterans.

Among the serious issues exposed in the meeting minutes:
  • A detailed accounting of serious, unresolved VA failures, collected in a new RAC report; the report included a unanimous finding of "No Confidence" in VA's handling of Gulf War Illness (GWI)
  • The RAC's rejection of a VA staff whitewash of a consensus-developed, first of its kind, comprehensive strategic research plan on Gulf War Illness for VA
  • Pointed questions to VA's Office of Public Health regarding why VA has not complied and when it will comply with a four-year-old law mandating a contract with IOM to determine rates of Multiple Sclerosis in Gulf War and OIF/OEF veterans
  • Serious concerns about a new VA national survey of 30,000 Gulf War veterans seen by the RAC as more damaging than helpful in its proposed form
  • Encouraging new treatment-focused GWI medical research findings -- much of it conducted in spite of serious issues with VA

No news media attended the meetings, perhaps helping to explain why there have not yet been national headlines about these serious issues affecting one in three veterans of the 1991 Gulf War, and other U.S. forces.

Since the meeting, VA research staff have suggested that some promising new GWI treatment medical research appears likely to be funded by VA this year.  However, no information has been made available regarding these discussed initiatives.

Also since the meeting, VA staff initiated the process for an unprecedented contract with the Institute of Medicine to create a new "case definition" for Gulf War chronic multisymptom illness -- through a highly controversial "literature review."

The RAC's December 2012 meeting, scheduled a year in advance, had to be cancelled due to challenges with new VA travel rules.  The RAC's next meeting is now scheduled for February 4-5, 2013 in Washington, DC.  All RAC meetings are fully open to the public.  

-Anthony Hardie


*NOTE that the meeting minutes are a *very* slow download from VA's server:  http://www.va.gov/RAC-GWVI/docs/Minutes_and_Agendas/RAC-Minutes-June2012.pdf


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