The recently “rotated out” chairman of the federal panel charged with overseeing health research related to veterans of the 1991 Gulf War was quoted extensively today in an Arizona Republic news article, expressing reasoned concerns regarding the approach of VA staff to Gulf War health research.
Legislation to transfer most of the oversight of the committee from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to Congress passed the U.S. House by unanimous consent earlier this year. The bill, H.R. 4261, the Gulf War Health Research Reform Act, has stagnated in the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Led by Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee has yet to schedule a hearing on the bill despite having had the bill since June 2, 2014.
From the article:
[ex-Chairman James H.] Binns detailed his apprehension about the committee’s revolving membership in a four-page memo to members of Congress and veterans associations on his final day as chairman, Sept. 30.
“I leave the committee gravely concerned about the future of Gulf War illness research,” he wrote.
“From here on, neither the Secretary, nor Congress, veterans service organizations, veterans themselves or the public will know the whole truth behind VA Gulf War research. In the absence of an independent, knowledgeable body, staff will operate unchecked, and its campaign to revive 1990s fictions that Gulf War veterans have no special health problem will likely prevail.”
Binns’ final memo has been circulated widely among veterans associations, said Rick Weidman, executive director of policy and government affairs for the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Veterans organizations are lobbying Congress to pass legislation that would have the Gulf War committee report directly to Congress rather than to the VA.
Weidman said it may seem like an extreme step, but VA administrators’ actions were out of line during the Gulf War committee’s last two-day meeting in Washington.
“It really was bizarre because you had the staff of the VA from the environmental-hazards and public-health section trying to drive their agenda. And their agenda is that there is no such thing as Gulf War illness; that it’s all psychosomatic,” he said.
The move to replace the Gulf War committee members came despite a request to McDonald by House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and four other members, including Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., to retain the Gulf War committee members. The lawmakers sent their request Aug. 20.
Read the full Arizona Republic article here: