(91outcomes.com - Apr. 1, 2014) - A record number of Members of Congress today called for funding to keep an annually funded, treatment-focused Gulf War Illness research program moving forward.
In a joint letter to the leadership of the House Appropriations Committee, a bipartisan group of sixty-nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Me.) and Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.), requested continued funding for the Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP) of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP).
Among the cosigners were a number of Congressional leaders on veterans' issues, including House Veterans' Affairs Chair Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) and Ranking Member Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Me.), Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) and Ranking Member Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), Veterans' Affairs Health Subcommittee Chair Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.) and Ranking Member Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), and Veterans' Affairs Economic Opportunity Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.).
According to their letter justifying continuation of the unique, treatment-focused research program:
"To date, GWI CDMRP-funded studies have found effectiveness of Coenzyme Q10 and acupuncture in relieving some GWI symptoms, evidence of a chronic GWI inflammatory state, confirmation of neurological damage and brain neurochemistry changes following low-level nerve agent exposure, a potential explanation of GWI immunological dysfunction, immune dysfunction in GWI after exercise challenge, differences in GWI in male and female veterans, evidence suggesting small fiber peripheral neuropathy, lipid dysfunction following GWI exposures, and other findings important in aiding veterans with GWI.
"In 2014, two "consortia" -- multidisciplinary teams from several institutions -- began work on projects to identify treatments to address the fundamental mechanism underlying the disease, starting with animal studies to determine the effects of Gulf War exposures and to identify targets for treatment, to be followed by studies of treatments to address those targets in animals, and ultimately studies in humans of treatments that prove effective in animals."
"The Independent Budget Veterans Service Organizations (IBVSOs, composed of AMVETS, DAV, PVA, VFW, and 53 other organizations that serve veterans), report that the GWI CDMRP "Has made great strides in the short time it has been operating." We are requesting continued funding of the program to pursue this vital sword toward improving the health and lives of our Gulf War veterans.
"This effective program warrants solid continued support, even in a time of fiscal challenge. The GWIRP is the only national program addressing this issue. By contract, the Veterans Affairs (VA) research programs are open only to VA doctors, few of whom have expertise in a new and understudied field like toxic illness.
"We respectfully request that you provide the necessary resources to accomplish this vital program."The GWIRP program grew out of concerns about VA mishandling of Gulf War Illness research, beginning with Congressional funding of the GWIRP at $5 million, beginning in federal fiscal year 2006. The program has grown to $20 million in annual funding in recent years, still quite small by federal standards, at the same time as VA came under fire for cutting its own $15 million in annual funding of Gulf War health research to less than $5 million. By contrast, CDMRP research programs focused on TBI and PTSD have been awarded $623 million in funding since 2007, in addition to VA and other funding focused on these issues.
Concerns about VA's Gulf War research efforts intensified in recent years after the federal committee charged (RAC) with reviewing the federal government's research efforts issued a report of "no confidence" on VA's handling of Gulf War Illness research.
Several months later, in March 2013, a top VA research-turned-whistleblower exposed serious allegations of VA misdeeds, including cover-up of Gulf War Illness symptoms and other health trends found during VA research. Among his allegations later confirmed by an internal VA investigation were suicides by veterans contacted by VA without any subsequent follow-up.
By last summer, national news media began reporting about VA retaliation against the committee, which helped lead to the introduction of legislation (H.R. 4261, the Gulf War Health Research Reform Act) to restore the committee's independence and direct VA to fulfill a laundry list of statutorily-mandated veterans' health research that to date VA has failed to conduct.
One recent GWIRP-funded study found further evidence of the long-hypothesized mitochondrial dysfunction suggested by earlier GWI research.
Another GWIRP-funded study of deployed non-deployed Gulf War and Gulf War Era veterans is currently seeking study participants.
A copy of the complete GWIRP funding letter is here, which includes the full list of cosigners.
FY15 Cosigners (April 1, 2014)