Gulf War Health Research Reform Act of 2014
The Gulf War Health Research Reform Act of 2014 (H.R. 4261) is a bill that would alter the relationship between the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illnesses (RAC) and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The bill would make the RAC an independent organization within the VA, require that a majority of the RAC's members be appointed by Congress instead of the VA, and state that the RAC can release its reports without needing prior approval from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The RAC is responsible for investigating Gulf War syndrome, a chronic multisymptom disorder affecting returning military veterans and civilian workers of the Gulf War.
Gulf War syndrome (GWS), also known as Gulf War illness (GWI), is a chronic multisymptom disorder affecting returning military veterans and civilian workers of the Gulf War. A wide range of acute and chronic symptoms have been linked to it, including fatigue, muscle pain, cognitive problems, rashes and diarrhea. Approximately 250,000 of the 697,000 U.S. veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War are afflicted with enduring chronic multi-symptom illness, a condition with serious consequences. From 1995 to 2005, the health of combat veterans worsened in comparison with nondeployed veterans, with the onset of more new chronic diseases, functional impairment, repeated clinic visits and hospitalizations, chronic fatigue syndrome-like illness, posttraumatic stress disorder, and greater persistence of adverse health incidents. According to a report by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan may also suffer from the syndrome.
In the year prior to the consideration of this bill, the VA and the RAC were at odds with one another. The VA replaced all but one of the members of the RAC, removed some of their supervisory tasks, tried to influence the board to decide that stress, rather than biology was the cause of Gulf War syndrome, and told the RAC that it could not publish reports without permission. The RAC was originally created in 1997, after Congress decided that the VA's research into the issue was flawed, and focused on psychological causes, while mostly ignoring biological ones.
Provisions of the billEdit
The bill would require the majority of RAC members be appointed by the chairmen and ranking members of the United States House Committee on Veterans' Affairs and the United States Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Three of the members would be required to be veterans, while a minimum of eight members "must be scientists of physicians, with expertise in areas like epidemiology, immunology, neurology and toxicology."
The bill also requests that the VA look at animal studies when investigating toxic exposure.
The bill states that "reports, recommendations, publications, and other documents of the (RAC) committee shall not be subject to review or approval by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs."
The Gulf War Health Research Reform Act of 2014 was introduced into the United States House of Representatives on March 14, 2014 by Rep. Mike Coffman (R, CO-6). The bill was referred to the United States House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, the United States House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Health, and the United States House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
Debate and discussionEdit
According to Rep. Coffman, who sponsored the bill, the legislation is the result of an investigation by the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations which determined that the Department of Veterans Affairs was "exercising too much control over the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illnesses (RAC)" and was "denying their ability to effectively and independently carry out its Congressionally mandated role to improve the lives of Gulf War Veterans." The investigation found the misappropriation of funds, the placement of biased members in the RAC, and restrictions on RAC reports to keep them from circulating.
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who supported the bill, said that it was our job to ensure "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."
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- Stencel, C (2010-04-09). "Gulf War Service Linked to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Multisymptom Illness, Other Health Problems, But Causes Are Unclear". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 2012-05-09.
- Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses (2008-11-01). "Gulf War Illness and the Health of Gulf War Veterans: Scientific Findings and Recommendations" (pdf). U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved 2012-05-09.
- Li, B.; Mahan, C. M.; Kang, H. K.; Eisen, S. A.; Engel, C. C. (2011). "Longitudinal Health Study of US 1991 Gulf War Veterans: Changes in Health Status at 10-Year Follow-up". American Journal of Epidemiology. 174 (7): 761–768. doi:10.1093/aje/kwr154. PMID 21795757.
- Kelly Kennedy (23 January 2013). "Report: New vets show Gulf War illness symptoms". Army Times. USA Today. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
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- "H.R. 4261 - All Actions". United States Congress. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
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