Bergman, Sablan Lead 80 Members of Congress, 25 Organizations in Call for Funding to Help Veterans with Gulf War Illness

80 Members of Congress called for funding to help Veterans with Gulf War Illness. Led by Representatives Jack Bergman (R-MI) and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-MP), the bipartisan effort in support of a treatment research program targeted at “improved health and lives of Veterans who have Gulf War Illness” comes in the midst of a series of Congressional hearings on military toxic exposures.

In a joint letter, the cosigners urged the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to provide funding needed “to continue this vital and effective program and to support its progress into more advanced, larger-scale clinical trials,” calling it, “a model of how to conduct treatment-oriented research to address complex toxic exposure health outcomes.” The Congressional efforts were supported by 25 organizations, including Veterans and military service organization and toxic exposure advocacy organizations, who this week cosigned their own similar letter to the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

“Veterans who’ve served our country are suffering from Gulf War Illness (GWI), but much progress has been made towards treatment and understanding through the successful Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP) within the Department of Defense (DoD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP). It’s imperative we do everything we can to ensure those who have sacrificed so much for our Nation have access to the care and treatment they deserve. I am grateful that Rep. Kilili Sablan has helped lead this effort as we seek to do right by our Veterans,” said Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI).

“Veterans with Gulf War Illness have suffered for far too long,” said Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-MP). “We must do all that is needed now to help all our veterans suffering the health effects of their military toxic exposures. That includes fully funding critically important treatment research programs to improve their health and lives, including this one for veterans suffering from Gulf War Illness."

“The progress being made to develop treatments is highly encouraging for veterans suffering from Gulf War Illness,” said Anthony Hardie, National Chair & Director of Veterans for Common Sense and an ill Gulf War veteran himself. “That progress is thanks in very large part to the work of Reps. Kilili Sablan and Jack Bergman, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, and the many powerful cosigners in the House and Senate who help to secure this funding, and to whom we are deeply grateful. And, the support of more than two dozen veterans, military, and toxic exposure organizations is incredible. In short, the critical work of the program staff and brilliant researchers to actually develop effective treatments for Gulf War Illness would not be possible without such a broad base of powerful support,” said Hardie.

“Sandwiched between Agent Orange and Burn Pits, Gulf War illness is often the forgotten disability. Although more than three decades have passed, since the end of the Gulf War, we still have not solved the virulent toxic impact on the health of Gulf War veterans. The current bipartisan support for the Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP) is heartening. We must continue to fund this critical research and Military-Veterans Advocacy calls on Congress to include appropriate levels of funding in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.” - Commander John B. Wells, U. S. Navy (Retired), Attorney at Law and Chairman of Military-Veterans Advocacy, Inc.

"The significance of the Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP) cannot be overstated. We greatly appreciate the solid support that has been demonstrated for this vital program which represents a critical resource in the efforts to find successful treatments for these terrible conditions," said National Veterans Legal Services Program Executive Director Bart Stichman.

“The Gulf War Illness Research Program is an outstanding model of effectiveness for how to go about research to treat and prevent toxic exposure conditions like Gulf War Illness. The impact of treatment research is critical for sick veterans who come home affected by their toxic exposure health issues, including our son in whose memory and legacy our organization was named.” -Peter Sullivan, Director, The Sergeant Sullivan Circle.

"This is a critical research program that is needed and can be built upon to provide future research for other illnesses caused by toxic exposures. We thank Rep. Sablan, Rep. Bergman and the many cosigners for their support in advocating for funds for this critical program," said Holly Ferrell, Executive Director, Veteran Warriors.

“United Soldiers and Sailors of America strongly believes that our service members and our veterans are our greatest national treasure and that the Gulf War Illness treatment research (GWIRP) is urgently needed to ensure that our nation and our people provide them with the care, compassion and support that they have earned and deserve,” said John P. Yori, President of United Soldiers and Sailors of America – USASOA.

“Veterans and Military Families for Progress (VMFP) fully support this effort. We thank the House, Senate and the Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) community, for combining to end the absurd, meaningless outrageous and detrimental delay in caring for our Veterans with toxic exposure issues. Hopefully, this will put an end, once and for all, to the misguided efforts by of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) defying logic and the disregard the needs of people exposed to toxins. With it, we also hope it will end the anguish of their families and other people in their community, dealing who have with all these problems for so long.” -Matt Cary, Executive Director, Veterans and Military Families for Progress.

“The research done thru DOD CDMRP GWIRP is doing the hard work we wanted from the time our service members returned from Operation Desert Storm in 1991. We wanted acknowledgement of exposures and to be able to know where physical damage occurred due to military toxic exposures. The medical researchers have found answers and are racing to find treatments to stop progression of symptoms that will advance to bad diagnosed conditions. We all have a goal to decrease suffering, improve the veterans’ quality of life, and to restore their health. We cannot and will not give up because the veterans did not and they accomplished their goals. We must continue to give our all as they have theirs. It is a debt we pay that is past due.” -Denise Nichols, MAJ, USAF(Ret), RN(Ret), BSN, MSN and disabled veteran, Gulf War Illnesses Advocate, National Vietnam and Gulf War Veterans Coalition.

“It is past time to provide the critical care to our nation’s veterans affected by these exposures. Congress needs to act to on its promises to our service members and provide the care necessary for them,” said Jane Williams, Executive Director of California Communities Against Toxics.

Background:

By congressional design, the Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP), created by Congress as a Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) within the Department of Defense (DoD), is a unique medical research program narrowly focused on identifying treatments and diagnostic markers for Gulf War Illness (GWI).

As many as one-third of the roughly 700,000 veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War suffer from Gulf War Illness, according to research findings and the DoD webpage for the Gulf War Illness Research Program.

According to that DoD webpage, “GWI is characterized by multiple, diverse symptoms that typically include chronic headache, widespread pain, cognitive difficulties, debilitating fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, respiratory symptoms, sleep problems, and other abnormalities that could not be explained by established medical diagnoses or standard laboratory tests.”

Numerous research studies have found that the condition likely resulted from toxic exposures in the Gulf War theater of operations.

These Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, including the Gulf War Illness Research Program, are unique in that they include “consumer reviewers,” patients afflicted by the health condition, at every step of decision-making. These consumer reviewers, who offer unique insight, focus, and a sense of urgency, help the program to decide which research will be funded to best meet the needs of patients affected by the debilitating health condition.

The following House Members also supported this request, which was led by Jack Bergman (R-MI) and Reps. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-MP): Reps. Colin Allred (D-TX), Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Mike Bost (R-IL), Anthony G. Brown (D-MD), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), André Carson (D-IN), Sean Casten (D-IL), Judy Chu (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Angie Craig (D-MN), Jason Crow, (D-CO), Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Antonio Delgado (DNY), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Jesús G. "Chuy" García (D-IL), Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR), Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S., (R-AZ), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Rep. John Katko (R-NY), William R. Keating (D-MA), Trent Kelly (R-PA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Ron Kind (D-WI), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Richard E. Neal (D-MA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ilhan Omar (DMN), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), Greg Pence (R-IN), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Stacey E. Plaskett (D-VI), Aumua Amata C. Radewagen (R-AS), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Kathleen M. Rice (D-NY), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Raul Ruiz, M.D., (D-CA), Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), Linda T. Sanchez (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Mikie Sherrill, (D-NJ), Albio Sires, (D-NJ), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), Christopher H. Smith (D-NJ), Darren Soto (D-FL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Thomas R. Suozzi, (D-NY), Mark Takano (D-CA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Marc Veasey (D-TX), Peter Welch (DVT), and John Yarmuth (D-KY).

The following organizations cosigned in support of this effort: DAV, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Blinded Veterans Association, Burn Pits 360, California Communities Against Toxics, Cease Fire Campaign, Fleet Reserve Association, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Jewish War Veterans of the USA, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Military-Veterans Advocacy, National Veterans Legal Services Program, National Vietnam & Gulf War Veterans Coalition, Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Quinism Foundation, Reserve Organization of America (ROA), Sergeant Sullivan Circle, Service Women's Action Network (SWAN), Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), United Soldiers and Sailors of America, Veterans for Common Sense, Veterans and Military Families for Progress, Veteran Warriors, VetsFirst, and Vietnam Veterans of America.

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