Wednesday, March 5, 2014

USA Today: House to ask for autonomy for Gulf War Illness board

The USA Today story, below, is about the long awaited legislation to restore the Congressionally chartered Federal Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses (RAC) after it has been unjustly targeted by VA for speaking up and out on behalf of an estimated 250,000 Gulf War veterans suffering from Gulf War Illness -- in other words, doing its job.

Helping to lead the charge is AMVETS, one of the "Big 6" veterans service organizations and the fourth largest U.S. veterans service organization following the American Legion, VFW, and DAV.

"AMVETS members [will] reach out to every Congress member this week to talk about environmental toxins like those the 1991 Gulf War veterans were exposed to..."  

Ill Gulf War veterans' needs are too important to simply sit back and watch while VA dismantles the RAC, including removing its charge to evaluate the effectiveness of all federal Gulf War research efforts by the standard of whether or not it is improving Gulf War veterans' health and lives.  

VA has been provided a long line of reports and recommendations by the RAC and its members, only to see VA disregard them to the detriment of ill Gulf War veterans.  

Yet to date, VA has developed no effective treatments for Gulf War Illness, no biomarkers to diagnose it, no measures to prevent it.  VA spent a lot of time fostering a process to develop a consensus-based Gulf War Illness Research Strategic Plan, only to then gut it when individual VA research staff wanted to disregard it.  

When the RAC raised this and other concerns, included in a June 2012 "no confidence" report, instead of correcting any of the many serious issues, VA instead shot the messenger, gutting the RAC's mission, charter, and membership.  A letter of concern sent directly to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki by all the Gulf War veterans on the RAC last summer was simply ignored, none of its recommendations heeded, without even the courtesy of a response.  

The effects of VA's independence-stripping are only just now becoming clear -- the RAC has been muzzled, and 16 pages of a pending RAC report have been censored and not allowed to be included in the report's publication.  Those censored 16 pages, however, have been included in the RAC's annual report to the VA Secretary, and are available here:

And, newly revised VA meeting invitation letters sent to RAC members now include language that seeks to muzzle RAC members, censoring their freedom of speech.  And while VA officials told the RAC chair that half the members would be replaced within the first year, instead, VA will have replaced all but one by the end of this summer.  

It's time for Congress to pass this legislation -- with Gulf War veteran's help -- to help redirect VA's misguided research efforts.  It's time for VA's research efforts to be directed at finding solutions for ill Gulf War veterans, not reasons why they can't.  And it's time for VA leaders to stand out of the way and let the democratic process work -- allowing a long overdue fix to issues that should never have been issues in the first place.  


Additional Documents:

SOURCE:  USA Today, Kelly Kennedy reporting (3/5/2014)  **PLEASE CLICK ON THIS LINK TO ENSURE YOUR READ IS COUNTED**


House to ask for autonomy for Gulf War Illness board

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