Bipartisan Bill on Gulf War Health Research
(Washington, D.C.) Today, U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO), along with U.S. Representative Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) and U.S. Representative Michaud (D-ME), introduced the Gulf War Health Research Reform Act of 2014. The legislation is the product of an extensive investigation by Coffman’s House Veteran’s Affairs Subcommittee for Oversight and Investigation (O& I) that found the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) exercising too much control over the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illnesses (RAC) that was denying their ability to effectively and independently carry out its Congressionally mandated role to improve the lives of Gulf War Veterans.
“As a Gulf War veteran, I’ve been extremely disappointed at the actions of VA staff to misdirect Gulf War illnesses research by reviving the scientifically discredited concept that “the same thing happens after every war”, and to eliminate oversight, just as science is finally making some progress,” said Coffman, a Marine Corps combat veteran.
The O&I Subcommittee’s investigation into the VA’s research efforts regarding the causes of Gulf War illness uncovered the misuse of funds appropriated for researching Gulf War Illness that was diverted for other purposes. The Subcommittee also found that the RAC had been marginalized by VA’s efforts to embargo their reports and pack the RAC with members who had a bias toward seeing Gulf War as having a psychosomatic rather than biological basis.
“We owe it to those who have served our country to provide them with the best medical care and resources available,” said Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. “This includes ensuring the VA conducts objective research on chronic illnesses experienced by Gulf War veterans, in an effort to find treatments that can make a difference in their quality of life.”
The legislation makes the RAC an independent committee within the VA and requires that a majority of its members be appointed by the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees and gives the RAC oversight responsibilities over Gulf War Illness research. It also requires the VA ensure that research conducted on this disease be referred to as “Gulf War Illness” and that Institute of Medicine reports on the health effects of toxic exposures veterans were subjected to, consider animal as well as human studies, as Congress has previously ordered, to better understand the causes and how best to treat the afflicted veterans.
“We have learned a lot in the last twenty years about the debilitating physical effects of Gulf War Illness on our veterans, and we need to make sure that we make every effort to accurately identify, diagnose, and treat them. To be sure, it should not take another 20 years for us all to get this right,” emphasized Coffman.
Coffman serves as the chairman and Kirkpatrick is the ranking Democrat on the House Veterans O&I Subcommittee. This legislation will be part of a hearing in the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee on March 26th.