Sunday, June 30, 2013

UPLOADED DOCUMENTS: VA Retaliates, Guts Gulf War Illness Panel (RAC)

The following compilation of linked documents are related to the VA's sweeping, retaliatory changes to the Congressionally chartered Research Advisory Committee (RAC) on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses - for telling the truth and doing their jobs.



Key Documents: VA Retaliation Against Gulf War Illness Panel

Letter from RAC Chair Jim Binns to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and Interim Chief of Staff Jose Riojas, April 29, 2013, identifying serious ongoing issues at VA related to Gulf War research.  

Letter from VA Interim Chief of Staff Jose Riojas to RAC Chair Jim Binns, May 16, 2013.  Outlines sweeping changes to the RAC.  

Newly revised RAC Charter gutting the RAC signed by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, May 17, 2013.

Letter from RAC Chair Jim Binns to VA Interim Chief of Staff Jose Riojas, May 29, 2013.  An analysis of serious problems with the sweeping changes to the RAC and RAC's charter.  

Letter from all the Gulf War veteran members of the RAC (Anthony Hardie, Marguerite Knox, Joel Graves) to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, June 10, 2013.  Includes discussion of serious problems with sweeping changes to RAC and RAC charter, with context on Gulf War veterans' history with VA.  

RAC report, June 18, 2013.  "At its last in-person meeting on June 19, 2012, the Committee adopted detailed findings and recommendations and concluded that the Department of Veterans Affairs has failed to formulate and execute an effective Gulf War Illness research program. The majority of these findings remain unaddressed in whole or in part, including the most serious, which reflect actions by elements of VA and DoD staff seeking to roll back the clock to the 1990’s and fundamentally reverse the progress that has been made in understanding and addressing Gulf War illness. The recent change to the charter of the Committee, eliminating its oversight function and independence, is the latest and most egregious example of these staff actions. At the time of a senior leadership change, staff has persuaded VA leadership to endorse these actions. The Committee makes the following recommendations to the Secretary...."

RAC Charters

VA Press Release, Jan. 23, 2002, “VA Creates Gulf War Advisory Committeeregarding creation of the RAC.

Speech to the RAC by VA Dep. Sec. Leo Mackay, Oct. 28, 2002.

National Media Coverage of VA Retaliation Against Gulf War Illness Panel

Listed in reverse chronological order (newest first)

(Kelley Vlahos), June 25, 2013: "Gulf War Advocates Purged for Telling the Truth? More retaliation against government whistleblowers" [Archived]

Forbes (Rebecca Ruiz), June 21, 2013: "Critics Concerned over VA's 'Sweeping' Changes to Gulf War Illness Panel" [Archived]

Military Times/Army Times/Navy Times/Air Force Times/Marine Corps Times (Patricia Kime), June 21, 2013:  "VA Gulf War Panel Members Walk Out to Protest Changes" [Archived]

91outcomes (Anthony Hardie), June 21, 2013: "VA Censors blocking Gulf War veterans' comments on VA blog"

91outcomes (Anthony Hardie), June 20, 2013: "VA Responds -- Not to Gulf War Veterans -- But Via Press Release"

The American Conservative (Kelley Vlahos), June 17, 2013, "Gulf War Panel: We're being purged for Contradicting VA" [Archived]

91outcomes, June 15, 2013, "Gulf War veterans react to VA's retaliation against Gulf War Illness panel," many comments by Gulf War veterans.

New York Times (Jim Dao), June 14, 2013: "Researchers find biological evidence of Gulf War Illnesses", mentions VA steps to reduce RAC independence.  [Archived]

91outcomes (Anthony Hardie), June 14, 2013, "VA responds to allegations of retaliation with spin, mistaking motion for progress," includes VA press response text with analysis.

Democratic Underground (William Pitt), June 14, 2013: "Advocates Say VA Gutting Gulf War Illness Panel" [Archived]

Fox News (Jennifer Griffin), June 14, 2013, "More trouble for the Department of Veterans Affairs: Calls for director to step aside" [Archived]

91outcomes, June 13, 2013, "The Story behind the USA Today Story, 'Advocates Say VA Gutting Gulf War Illness Panel'"

USA Today (Kelly Kennedy), June 13, 2013, "Advocates Say VA Gutting Gulf War Illness Panel" [Archived]

Key RAC Documents

1) Gulf War Research Strategic Plan, Jan. 23, 2012.  This is the final version of the consensus plan -- aimed squarely at developing treatments to improve the health and lives of ill Gulf War veterans -- before VA staff unilaterally whitewashed it.  

BEFORE:  Final consensus draft plan (Jan. 23, 2012), prior to unilateral VA staff changes.  Also see RAC Comments regarding this final draft strategic plan.

AFTER:  VA Staff Plan (May 31, 2012) – whitewashed and gutted by VA staff without regard for the consensus gained in developing the final plan. 

  • Comparison document showing changes made by VA after RAC's conclusion with the plan.
  • A modified comparison version of the Jan. 23, 2012 Final Draft Consensus Plan, modified to show VA's edits made in VA's May 31, 2012 version after RAC's conclusion with the plan.

2) RAC "No confidence" report, June 19, 2012.  Blasts VA, stating the RAC unanimously, "has no confidence in the ability or demonstrated intention of VA staff to formulate and execute an effective VA Gulf War illness research program."

3) RAC "Gulf War Illness is Real" report, Nov. 17, 2008.  This is the landmark Gulf War Illness federal government report.  

Key Congressional Documents

March 13, 2013 Congressional Investigative Hearing, U.S. House of Representatives, Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations, "Gulf War: What kind of care are veterans receiving 20 years later?", March 13, 2013.  Testimony by VA senior-researcher-turned-whistleblower Dr. Stephen Coughlin, RAC Past Scientific Director Dr. Lea Steele, RAC Gulf War veteran member Anthony Hardie, and others.  

H. Rpt. 105-388, "Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses: VA, DOD Continue To Resist Strong EvidenceLinking Toxic Causes To Chronic Health Effects," Sep. 7, 1997.  Led to the creation of legislation to provide VA Gulf War Illness benefits, create the RAC.  [Archived]

Congressional Record, Remarks of key bill sponsors regarding 1998 Persian Gulf War veterans' comprehensive legislation (contained in 105th-H.R. 4110), including creation of the Research Advisory Committee (RAC) on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, Oct. 10, 1998.

Congressional Record, Remarks of Rep. Joseph P.Kennedy II regarding Persian Gulf War veterans' comprehensive legislation, including creation of the Research Advisory Committee (RAC) on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, Aug. 7, 1998.  

Public Law 105-277.  Title XVI, called the "Persian Gulf War Veterans Act of 1998," created a process for presumptive conditions for VA service-connected disability ratings purposes.  

Public Law 105-368, one of two key pieces of 1998 legislation providing new benefits for Gulf War veterans, including creation of the Research Advisory Committee (RAC) on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses.  Section 104 created the RAC.   VA delayed for more than three years beyond its statutory obligation to create the RAC no later than January 1, 1999, and VA staff have fought against implementing the RAC's recommendations ever since.   For more history of the RAC, see, "Looking Back: Gulf War Veterans Won Victory with Creation of the RAC".

Together, Gulf War veterans call these landmark two laws the "Gulf War Veterans Acts of 1998".

Congressional Research Service (Wendy R. Ginsberg), “Federal Advisory Committees: An Overview,” (R40520), Jan. 24, 2011.

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