Monday, June 17, 2013

DEMOCRATIC UNDERGROUND: Advocates Say VA Gutting Gulf War Illness Panel

SOURCE:  Democratic Underground (William Pitt)

Advocates Say VA Gutting Gulf War Illness Panel

Last edited Fri Jun 14, 2013, 09:15 AM USA/ET - Edit history (1)
Source: USA Today

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki has altered the charter of an independent board to research Gulf War Illness, cut its budget and limited the board's independence, according to a directive Shinseki signed last month.

"I have discussed these issues with the secretary and have directed the staff to implement a few actions regarding the committee," said Jose Riojas, Shinseki's interim chief of staff, in a May 16 letter to James Binns, the group's director. "In summary, I have directed that one-half of the members remain and one-half be replaced in accordance with VA policy," Riojas wrote.

Binns, Riojas wrote, is invited to remain as chairman of the board for one more year to "assist the transition process."

Rather than having an independent staff, the board's staff may now be provided by regular VA personnel. Before, the board oversaw those people.

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The story behind the USA TODAY Story, "Advocates say VA gutting Gulf War Illness panel"

The USA Today story below is regarding a whole new round of unacceptable behavior by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) related to Gulf War veterans.

Instead of fixing the many serious problems at VA related to Gulf War veterans, VA has retaliated against Gulf War veterans and Gulf War veterans' advocates on the RAC who "dared" raise these issues -- despite the fact that raising the many serious issues is fully consistent with the RAC's longstanding, Congressionally directed mission to serve as an oversight body advocating for ill Gulf War veterans with the ultimate standard by which federal research must be judged being effective treatments for Gulf War Illness.

To date, VA has no proven effective treatments for Gulf War Illness, and last year, the expert panel overseeing federal Gulf War Illness research efforts, the RAC, gave VA a scathing unanimous finding of, "no confidence in the ability or demonstrated intention of VA staff to formulate and execute an effective VA Gulf War illness research program.”

It should be noted that before the media became involved, Gulf War veterans' advocates sought to work for over two weeks with the VA Secretary's office to fix these issues, to no avail. At the beginning of this week, all the Gulf War veterans on the panel (the RAC) sent a joint, eight-page letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki regarding these concerns. No one from VA has even bothered to acknowledge let alone respond to the veterans' letter.

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