Thursday, March 21, 2013

Congress Sends CR to President -- with Doubled Gulf War Illness Treatment Development Funding

( – Following yesterday’s news of a unique Gulf War Illness brain signature found by a researcher funded not by VA but by the Gulf War Illness Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP), Congress today gave final approval for the drawn out Continuing Appropriations Act (CR) with an unprecedented $20 million in funding for this year’s GWI treatment-focused program. 

Last year, through an effort led by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME), Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN), Gulf War veterans and advocates won a hard fight for House approval of $20 million in funding for the GWI CDMRP –- an amount double the highest previous level of funding for the unique GWI treatment development program. 

House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) was an early and important supporter of the effort. 

The appropriations process has had many fits and starts since then, including last week’s approval by the U.S. House, this week’s approval by the Senate, and today’s final concurrence again by the House. 

It remains unclear what effect the sequestration mandate will have on the GWI and other CDMRPs, which range from medical research focused on traumatic brain injury and PTSD to ALS, MS, and cancers.   

The approval comes on the heels of widespread national media coverage of last week's Congressional hearing in which a former VA researcher-turned-whistleblower and others testifying blasted VA staff for lying and obfuscation related to Gulf War research, lawbreaking, misdirecting research and funding, and ultimately failing to develop a single proven effective GWI treatment in the more than two decades since the 1991 Gulf War.  Cutting funding to VA's non-performing offices and increasing funding for the GWI CDMRP, characterized as a program "that is working", were among the recommendations given to the House Veterans' Affairs Oversight and Investigations subcommittee.

Rep. Michael Coffman (R-CO), subcommittee chair and retired a Marine who served in the Gulf War, promised further investigation.  “I find the conduct of the Veterans Administration embarrassing on this issue in terms of their treatment," said Coffman at the hearing's conclusion.  
The final Continuing Appropriations bill, which averts a government shutdown and was sent today to the President for an expected signature, includes this doubled funding for this year’s (FY14) GWI CDMRP program, aimed squarely at improving the health and lives of veterans.

-Anthony Hardie 

No comments: