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Friday, May 16, 2014

H.R. 4261 Myth and Fact - No Changes to Benefits, Healthcare, or Scope of VA Research

Editor's note:  This article was originally posted with inadvertent citation errors in the first two paragraphs of background.  Those errors were corrected as soon as they were found by the author, the same day of the original post.

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MYTH:  H.R. 4261 could eliminate research and benefits for veterans whose Persian Gulf service was after June 30, 1991.


BACKGROUND:  

The Veterans Programs Enhancement Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-368) and the Persian Gulf War Veterans Act of 1998 (Title XVI of P.L. 105-277) created an array of laws impacting on VA healthcare, benefits, and research for veterans of the Persian Gulf theatre of operations with service from August 2, 1990 to a date as yet to be determined by the President.  Much of that law continues to apply to veterans of the Persian Gulf theatre of operations with service through to the present.

The Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (RAC), a federal advisory committee composed of Gulf War veterans and researchers, was created under Section 104 of P.L. 105-368 in order to review and provide advice regarding Gulf War research.  Consistent with that mission, every RAC charter has limited the scope of the RAC’s purview to veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War, including the most recent May 17, 2013 VA charter currently governing the RAC.   The RAC is now codified in law at 38 U.S.C. 527 note Section 707.  

Research reviews on Gulf War health issues conducted by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on behalf of VA are specified in 38 U.S.C. 527 note Section 706 and 38 U.S.C. 1117 note

Benefits for veterans with service in the Persian Gulf theatre of operations are specified elsewhere in the law, including at 38 U.S.C. 1117. 

The definition of a Persian Gulf War veteran, which is used in federal law governing VA to provide benefits, healthcare, and other VA provisions to veterans with service in the Persian Gulf from 1990 through to the present, is specified at 38 U.S.C. 101(33). 


FACT:  H.R. 4261 does not change the RAC’s purposefully limited research scope, which has always been, is now, and under the bill would remain focused solely on 1990-91 Gulf War veterans.   H.R. 4261 does not change any VA healthcare or benefits laws.

H.R. 4261 makes changes only to 38 U.S.C. 527 note Section 707 (the RAC).  H.R. 4261 makes no changes to the many other provisions of 38 U.S.C. 527, including no changes to the VA Secretary’s review of effectiveness of 527 programs, no changes to the VA Secretary’s evaluation and data collection, no changes to the Burn Pit Registry, no changes to Section 702 (the Gulf War Registry), no changes to Section 703 (health exams), no changes to Section 704 (expansion of Gulf War Registry), no changes to Section 705 (study related to the Gulf War Registry), no changes to Section 706 (Agreement with NAS), no changes to Section 708 (defining Persian Gulf War broadly to include all service since 1990 to the present), and no changes to the Homeless veterans provision.

H.R. 4261 makes no changes to any VA benefits laws, including no changes to 38 U.S.C. 1117, including no changes to compensation for undiagnosed illness, no changes to compensation for a medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illness such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, or irritable bowel syndrome, no changes to compensation for presumptive conditions as determined by the VA Secretary, no changes to the process for determination of VA presumptives, no changes to the NAS agreement, and no changes to any benefits provisions whatsoever. 

H.R. 4261 makes no changes to the 38 U.S.C. 101(33) definition of a Persian Gulf War veteran, which includes service from 1990 to the present.  

The full text of H.R. 4261, wherein the scope of changes made are clearly limited solely to 38 U.S.C. 527 note Section 707 (the RAC), is publicly available at: 




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