Veterans for Common Sense Leadership (2016-18)
National Board Chair & Director
He has served with the treatment-focused U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) on Gulf War Illness (GWIRP), as a consumer reviewer with the program’s managing Programmatic Panel since the program’s creation in 2006, and as its Chair since 2015. Since 2014, he has also served as Chair of the External Advisory Boards for the program’s two Gulf War Illness research consortia at Boston University and Nova Southeastern University. He previously served from 2006 to 2013 on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (RAC). He served on the VA’s Gulf War Steering Committee from its inception in 2010 until it concluded its work in 2012 to develop a strategic plan for VA for Gulf War illness research.
He served with the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) from 2003 to 2009 as Executive Assistant for Legislative, Public, and Intergovernmental Affairs (the position has since been renamed as Assistant Deputy Secretary), the agency’s third-in-command. In that role, he also provided legislative and other support to the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs (NASDVA). From 1999 until joining WDVA in 2003, he served as a Congressional staff member to then-Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin.
Prior to his public service, he was an early leader of the former National Gulf War Resource Center from 1995 to 2000, including serving as a popularly-elected member of its Board of Directors, as National Secretary, and as National Vice-President. He served as a founding national officer of Veterans of Modern Warfare (VMW), including as Legislative Chair, National Treasurer, and National Secretary.
He has testified before Congress, federal agencies, and the National Academies on veterans’ health issues on numerous occasions, and has been frequently interviewed and quoted in the national media on issues related to veterans’ health and benefits. He has received numerous awards and commendations for his veterans’ affairs service, including from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Wisconsin State Legislature, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), and AMVETS. In June 2017, he was awarded the Ozonoff Unsung Hero Award by the Boston University School of Public Health Department of Environmental Health.
He served with the U.S. Army from 1986 through 1993, with six overseas tours of duty that included two combat tours: the 1991 Gulf War, and Somalia. His military awards include the Bronze Star medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal (4 awards), Army Achievement Medal (6 awards), Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Parachutist Badge, and several more.
He is a graduate of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, and the Defense Language Institute. Following his military service, he earned his Bachelor of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a life member of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Disabled American Veterans (DAV).
He is the author of 91outcomes, a Gulf War health and news website. As VCS’s Director (2014-Present), he leads VCS’s policy formulation and public advocacy efforts.
National Board Vice Chair
Since his return from the Gulf War, Paul Sullivan has devoted his entire career to advocating on behalf of and assisting fellow veterans with quickly obtaining healthcare and disability benefits they earned.
He has held leadership positions in government, the private sector, and non-profits for the past 25 years, successfully advocating for significant improvements in how our nation’s veterans are treated, including the Persian Gulf War Veterans Act of 1998.
Paul has testified before Congress more than 20 times as an expert witness, including before committees of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives about the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) budget, Gulf War Illness, VA’s disability claims process, and voting rights.
He has been an invited guest on these and related issues on many occasions on television news networks and broadcasts, including CNN, CBS, PBS, MSNBC, ABC, Fox, and “60 Minutes.” He successfully pitched hundreds of positive and informative news stories about veterans’ issues and has been interviewed and quoted by reporters from the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Austin American-Statesman, USA Today, Army Times, Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun, Associated Press, and many others. He has been an invited speaker on these and related issues at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Texas, Boston University, and many others.
Paul is a U.S. Army veteran who served as a cavalry scout in the 1991 Gulf War. Following his military service, he worked at the National Gulf War Resource Center, the VA, Veterans for Common Sense (Executive Director, 2006-2012), Bergmann & Moore, and most recently as Deputy Secretary for Communications at the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet).
After returning home from the Gulf War, Paul used his G.I. Bill education benefits and earned a Bachelor of Arts with a major in political science from the University of West Georgia. He then earned a Master’s Certificate in Project Management from George Washington University.
Paul is a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), The American Legion, AMVETS, and the American GI Forum (AGIF). He resides in the Washington, DC area.
National Board Secretary
Charles Miles has been a soldier, computer programmer, short-order cook and non-profit executive, and is the author of more than a dozen fiction and non-fiction books, including the indie bestsellers Just Remember to Breathe and Republic: A Novel of America’s Future. He is a member of The Authors Guild and the Association of Independent Authors.
He served in the 1991 Gulf War as a tank crewman with the U.S. Army’s 24th Infantry Division. He was the founding executive director of the former National Gulf War Resource Center in the 1990s and co-founded Veterans for Common Sense in 2002, then served as the organization’s Executive Director from 2003 to 2006.
Charles currently lives in South Hadley, Mass.
National Board Financial Officer
Erik Gustafson is a founding director of Veterans for Common Sense, and Executive Director of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC), an organization he founded in 1998. He is a U.S. Army veteran of the 1991 Gulf War. Witnessing the consequences of war has fueled a life-long passion for peace-building, human rights work and humanitarian advocacy.
Following his military service, he attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison to pursue a degree in education. While there, he led the Madison chapter of the East Timor Action Network, supporting East Timor’s right to self-determination. In 1997 and 1999, he traveled to Iraq to investigate the deterioration of humanitarian conditions under Saddam Hussein’s regime and the most comprehensive economic sanctions ever imposed in the history of the United Nations.
In 1998, Gustafson moved to Washington DC and established EPIC to improve humanitarian conditions and promote human rights in Iraq. Under his leadership, EPIC has hosted dozens of policy forums and led humanitarian advocacy on Iraq in Washington DC.
Among his many accomplishments, Erik has:
- Led research, advocacy, and field work to serve young people and educators in Iraq and the region; (1998-Present)
- Organized Iraq Action Days, which helped generate $1.8 billion in funding for war-affected Iraqis and other vulnerable persons worldwide (2008);
- Directed a countrywide professional development program for Iraqi human rights defenders while living and working in Iraq with DePaul University’s International Human Rights Law Institute (IHRLI); (2009-10);
- Led EPIC’s first youth project in Iraq, the Iraqi Youth Hike, in partnership with Nature Iraq; (2011)
- Raised awareness to the region’s growing humanitarian crisis and the needs of the region’s displaced and vulnerable populations located in Syrian refugee camps and Iraqi IDP camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to assess the response; (2013)
- Connected and facilitated partnerships between Iraq and U.S. agencies and institutions.
Erik’s role with Veterans for Common Sense includes helping guide policy formulation and aiding with non-profit administrative and compliance issues.
National Board Member
Erin M. Cole is an international trade and development expert with over 20 years of experience in Europe, Russia and Central Asia. She began her career as an enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army working in Combat Electronic Warfare Intelligence and Civil Affairs; she is a Gulf War combat veteran (Operations Desert Shield and Storm). Erin holds an Executive Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse University (SU) Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Security Studies from SU’s Institute of National Security and Counterterrorism (INSCT). A native of Buffalo, New York, Erin also holds a BA degree with majors in International Relations and Russian from the University at Buffalo. Erin started her own small business selling female military collectibles in 2001 and co-founded Veterans for Common Sense with fellow Gulf War veterans in 2002. She currently lives in Lockport, NY with her husband Vlad and dog Cherry.
National Board Member
Dan Fahey was commissioned in the U.S. Navy through the ROTC program at the University of Notre Dame and served in the Persian Gulf in July 1991 on board the USS Arkansas (CGN-41). From 1993 to 1998, Dan was a paralegal at Swords to Plowshares, a non-profit veterans advocacy group providing housing, counseling, job placement, and legal services to veterans in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dan has extensively researched and regularly spoken on depleted uranium (DU) from spent munitions and its potential role in veterans’ health problems. Dan served on the Board of Directors of the former National Gulf War Resource Center and the Military Toxics Project.
He served as a consultant to the Food and Agriculture Organization in 2006 to 2007 in Sudan, with the International Peace Institute in 2009 as an expert coder for compliance with UN Security Council sanctions regarding war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as a research consultant with the International Peace Information Service in 2009, as visiting faculty at Deep Springs College in 2010, as Research Director of the Eastern Congo Initiative in Goma, DRC from 2010 to 2011, and as a United Nations contractor in Goma, DRC since 2013.
Dan is past Post Commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5888 in Santa Cruz, Calif. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Notre Dame and a Master of Arts in International Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He earned his Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Policy and Management at the University of California at Berkeley, with a focus on armed conflict in the Great Lakes region of East Africa, and a post-doctoral in Political Science at Colorado College. He is the author of numerous book chapters, policy papers, and scholarly articles.
National Board Member
He served in the U.S. Air Force as a linguist and analyst from 1964 to 1968. He practiced law in Sarasota, Florida until his retirement in 1999.
He is the author of Adventuring in Paradise, a non-fiction outdoor recreation guide for Southwest Florida, and Suwannee Divide, an historical novel about Florida during the Civil War. The Sarasota Herald Tribune and other Florida media have published numerous guest columns he has authored.
He is a frequent lecturer and instructor about Florida during the Civil War, and is a regular speaker on behalf of Florida Veterans for Common Sense on veterans and national policy issues.