- Posted June 13, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Gulf War illness
Is Secretary Shinseki Playing Politics With 1991 Gulf War Veterans And Their Health?
Why is Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, altering the charter of the Congressionally chartered Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses (RAC)? Is it an angry response to critical criticism by RAC leadership and Dr. Coughlin, an epidemiologist and recent, March 13, 2013, Veteran Affairs Whistleblower?
Year 2013 VA Quote: "In summary, I have directed that one-half of the members remain and one-half be replaced in accordance with VA policy," Riojas wrote. Mr. Jose Riojas is Secretary Shinseki's Interm Chief of Staff.
First, I supply the following important quotes that the Veterans Affairs likely dislike:
Year 2007 Quote: "This government manipulation of science and violation of law to devalue the health problems of ill veterans is something I would not have believed possible in the United States of America until I took this job. Until this practice is stopped, the products of Gulf War illnesses research will be distorted, misleading the Secretary, Congress, veterans’ doctors, and the scientific community."[Mr. James Binn, Committee Chair, Congressionally appointed Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illness (RAC), Vietnam veteran, Harvard Law Graduate, 2]
Year 2012 Quote: "The VA Gulf War research budget has been cut by two-thirds for FY2013, from $15.0 to $4.86 million. Of the $15.0 million budgeted and approved by the Secretary and Congress for FY2012, only $4.98 million was spent. The two thirds cut was never discussed with the Research Advisory Committee, established by Congress to provide independent advice to the Secretary on proposed Gulf War health research plans [Appendix A]."[RAC, 5]
Year 2012 Quote: "The Research Advisory Committee has no confidence in the ability or demonstrated intention of VA staff to formulate and execute an effective VA Gulf War illness research program. Staff includes the Office of Research and Development, the Office of Public Health, and personnel from the DoD Office of Force Health Protection and Readiness who interface with them on this subject. The Committee recognizes the credible work conducted by many individual VA researchers, and the positive intentions of some staff members, but they are not the ones calling the shots."[RAC, 5]
Year 2012 Quote: "The Committee recommends that the failures and obstructive actions outlined above be thoroughly investigated to identify the individuals responsible and that appropriate actions be taken to remove them from positions of authority and influence over Gulf War illness research. Until this occurs, we see no prospects for meaningful progress in VA Gulf War illness research."[RAC, 5]
Year 2012 Quote: "These alterations are the latest example of the “don’t look, don’t find” approach that has driven so much Gulf War research for two decades, focusing research on the wrong subjects, and producing limited or misleading findings."[RAC, 5]
Year 2013 Whistle-blower Quote: "The Office of Public Health conducts large studies of the health of American veterans. However, if the studies produce results that do not support OPH’s unwritten policy, they do not release them. This applies to data regarding adverse health consequences of environmental exposures, such as burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, and toxic exposures in the Gulf War. On the rare occasions when embarrassing study results are released, data are manipulated to make them unintelligible."[Dr. Coughlin, Epidemiologist and Veteran Affairs Whistleblower; 4]
Year 2013 Whistle-blower Quote: "Twenty to thirty percent of these veterans were also Gulf War veterans, and the study produced data regarding their exposures to pesticides, oil well fires, and pyridostigmine bromide pills. It also included meticulously coded data as to what medications they take. The Office of Public Health has not released these data, or even the fact that this important information on Gulf War veterans exists. Anything that supports the position that Gulf War illness is a neurological condition is unlikely to ever be published." [Dr. Coughlin, Epidemiologist and Veteran Affairs Whistleblower; 4]
A Need for Consistency, Integrity, and Honesty
Is it possible that Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki decided to act out against the leadership of Congressionally Chartered Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illness because the RAC asked that Veterans Affairs bureaucrats be removed?
At this point in time of history related to 1991 Gulf War Illness, 1991 Gulf War Illness research, and 1991 Gulf War veteran struggles, we 1991 Gulf War veterans need honest and consistent leadership within the Congressionally Chartered Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses (RAC). I believe the above quotes are quite important when evaluating the current state of affairs at the Veterans Affairs when considering 1991 Gulf War Illness research. In truth, Dr. Coughlin, Epidemiologist and Veterans Affairs whistle-blower, stated that the Veterans Affairs incompetence has carried over to other veteran populations. Sadly, this is not surprising when considering World War II, radiation experiment, and Vietnam veteran, Agent Orange, struggles. Effectively dismantling an effective Congressionally Chartered Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses (RAC) will not benefit 1991 Gulf War veterans. Please help us stop Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.
Personally, I believe it is possible that Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki is striking out from frustration and anger, and not in the interest of 1991 Gulf War veterans. Once again, please help us 1991 Gulf War veterans. The Congressionally chartered Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses (RAC) leadership and members are our only consistency. I think the above quotes verify how the RAC has gone to bat for us on multiple occasions. They should not be replaced for doing their job and asking that some Veterans Affairs bureaucrats be replaced.
 Kennedy, Kelly. Advocates say VA gutting Gulf War Illness panel, June 13, 2013. ustoday.com[online]. 2013. Available from: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/06/13/independent-gulf-war-illness-review-board-cut/2419893/
 US House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Witness Testimony of Mr. James Binns, Reasearch Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illneses, US Department of Veterans Affairs, July 2007. veterans.house.gov[online]. 2012. Available from: http://veterans.house.gov/witness-testimony/mr-james-binns
 US House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Gulf War: What Kind of Care are Veterans Receiving 20 Years Later?, March 2013. veterans.house.gov[online]. 2013. Available from: http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/gulf-war-what-kind-of-care-are-veterans-receiving-20-years-later
 US House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Witness Testimony of Dr. Steven S. Coughlin, Adjunct Professor of Epidemology, Emory University, March 13, 2013. veterans.house.gov[online]. 2013. Available from: http://veterans.house.gov/witness-testimony/dr-steven-s-coughlin
 Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses. Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses Findings and Recommendation, June 2012. va.gov[online]. 2012. Available from: http://www.va.gov/RAC-GWVI/docs/Committee_Documents/CommitteeDocJune2012.pdf