VCS supports these efforts. Please let your elected officials know that you do as well.
Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes.comApril 8, 2012
(Washington, DC – 91outcomes.com) – This year’s push for funding the Peer Reviewed Gulf War Illness Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP), which last month garnered the largest number of House cosigners in the program’s history, continues with a parallel Senate effort led by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and launched on Friday.
In his letter requesting other U.S. Senators sign on to the “Dear Colleague” letter to Senate appropriations committee leaders and requesting $25 million in Fiscal Year 2013 Defense appropriations to adequately fund the program, Sanders notes, “over the past two years, three dramatic milestones have been achieved,” the direct result of broad, bipartisan Congressional support for the program.
Among those milestones are the 2010 recognition by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) – essentially the high court of U.S. medical science – that the Gulf War Illness “affecting 250,000 Gulf War veterans is a serious disease;” that IOM recognized GWI “affects other U.S. military forces;” and that, “the IOM report called for a major national research effort to identify treatments.”
The Sanders letter noted that, “the scientific community has responded with a dramatic increase in the quantity and quality of proposals submitted,” to the GWI CDMRP. According to CDMRP staff, scientific merit review scores for final applications for the most recent year (FY11) had increased on average by a full point since the program’s first year (FY06) — a remarkable achievement in such a short time and on just a five-point scale.
Sanders also noted that, “most encouraging, GWIRP-funded researchers have completed the first successful pilot study of a medication to treat one of the major symptoms,” of GWI — post-exertional fatigue. The study’s principal investigator, Dr. Beatrice Golomb of the University of California-San Diego, will be presenting her findings to another IOM committee on Thursday, April 12, at the National Academy of Sciences facilities in Irvine, Calif.
The level of funding proposed by Sanders (and members of the House) would be sufficient to finally accomodate funding for all three highly promising interdisciplinary, inter-institutional GWI medical research consortia that have been in development for the last year, a long-sought goal of Gulf War veterans’ health advocates.
Sanders also notes in his letter that, “continued funding is essential for more pilot studies of promising treatments and diagnostic markers, for clinical trials of treatments shown effective in earlier pilot studies, and for the execution of collaborative treatment research plans developed by consortia of scientists funded in FY2010.”
Launched on Friday afternoon after significant behind the scenes work by Senators, Senate staff, and Gulf War veterans’ advocates, Sanders’ target of $25 million in FY13 Congressionally directed Defense appropriations also carefully coincides with the specifically recommended $25 million funding level by Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on Gulf War Veterans and Health chair Dr. Stephen Hauser in letters to Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Haw.) and Ranking Member Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). It also coincides with the $25 million level recommended by the Congressionally mandated Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (RAC-GWVI) in its groundbreaking November 2008 report.
The FY13 Independent Budget, authored by four of the largest veterans service organizations (VSO’s) including DAV, VFW, PVA, and AMVETS and supported by nearly 60 other organizations, contains equally strong support of the GWI CDMRP: ”For FY 2013, the IBVSOs urge Congress to provide the funding level necessary for this research program to achieve the critical objectives of improving the health and lives of Gulf War veterans.”
To date, VA research funding officials have tended to fund Gulf War related research proposals by researchers working alone, who must also be VA employees. VA’s Office of Research and Development has been invited to collaborate with the GWI CDMRP – which among other unique and efficient aspects, is open to any researcher anywhere – to help advance GWI treatments and to ensure more efficient use of resources, particularly with research conducted by VA employees that could be funded through VA’s existing mechanisms. CDMRP panelists and RAC members alike have expressed hope that VA might be able to aid in a renewed effort based on more recent evidence helping to unravel some of GWI’s previous mysteries, including discoveries of neurological damage, neuro-immune dysregulation, and a chronic inflammatory state in GWI patients.
The three consortia currently in development involve dozens of key researchers from a multitude of research institutions and labs, and are aimed squarely at treatments for Gulf War Illness patients. Most are not VA employees and are therefore not eligible for VA research funding.
The consensus among GWI medical researchers is increasingly clear, including as publicly expressed by all three RAC scientific directors past and present: With the right efforts, effective treatments can indeed be found for the neurologically-rooted GWI.
Gulf War veterans and their advocates were successful in garnering 65 cosigners – by far the most ever in the history of the program — on a similar bipartisan effort in the U.S. House of Representatives led in March by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh.) and Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.). Among the cosignatories was Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), Chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
After much behind the scenes meeting and coordinating, it is now up to veterans and their advocates to help convince their Senators to sign on to the Sanders “Dear Colleague” request to provide $25 million in FY13 Defense appropriations for the Gulf War Illness Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program.