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     This page is to keep everyone up to date on what has happened since my last post. I had asked my webmaster to e-mail a couple of people for me, and below is what was replied to her by one of them. The e-mail came from the office of Senator Rockefeller sent by Julie Fischer. You are still urged to contact your local Senators.

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Subject: Fwd: Persian Gulf War Illness Compensation Act of 2001
Date: 10/16/2001 4:32 PM

     My name is Leanne Evans. I am the webmaster for Sgt. Joseph G. Miller. Sgt. Miller asked me to contact you about the Persian Gulf War Illness Compensation Act of 2001. He is wanting to know when it is scheduled for vote in the Senate. He is requesting this information so he can inform the VFW in his area and to also post on his web site to keep other veterans informed of what is going on. If you don't mind, please get back to me at leanne@1ce.net or with Sgt. Miller at joemiller@skybest.com at your earliest convenience. Thank you very much for your time.
     If you are interested, please feel free to check out Sgt. Miller's web site at
http://www.millersgulfwar.org.

Reply:

Dear Leanne and Sgt. Miller,

     The Persian Gulf War Illness Compensation Act (originally introduced by Senators Durbin and Hutchison) was included in the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee print S. 1088, "The Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2001," and was passed unanimously by the Committee on August 2, 2001.
     The Committee report has been filed, and now awaits a final vote on the Senate floor so that it can proceed to conference with the House version of the same bill. The terrible events of September 11 have demanded a great deal of attention from Congress, and the immediate response to terrorism and security issues has delayed the consideration of S. 1088, among many other bills. We fully expect this measure to come to the floor very soon, but I regret that I am unable to give you a specific date or time. I would be happy to notify you as soon as I have a better idea.

     I am including below the language from the Committee report, which is also available on-line from www.thomas.gov.

     Senator Rockefeller will also introduce another bill as soon as the Senate reconvenes that will extend Gulf War veterans' priority eligibility for health care for 10 more years. As you know, Senator Rockefeller has long been an advocate for appropriate health care and benefits for Gulf War veterans, and for understanding what exposures may have created the symptoms that still remain unexplained a decade later.

     I hope that this helps, and and would be happy to answer any other questions that you might have.

Julie E. Fischer, PhD
Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
John D. Rockefeller IV, Chairman
412 Senate Russell Building
Washington, DC 20510
202.224.9126 (ph)
202.224.9575 (fax)


SECTION 202: EXPANDS THE DEFINITION OF SERVICE-CONNECTED "UNDIAGNOSED ILLNESSES" AND EXTENDS THE PRESUMPTIVE PERIOD FOR GULF WAR VETERANS

Background
     Following the Gulf War in 1991, returning service members began to report a range of unexplained illnesses characterized by symptoms such as chronic fatigue, muscle and joint pain, loss of concentration and forgetfulness, headaches, and skin rashes that many attributed to their service. Subsequent review revealed that men and women who served in the war might have been exposed to multiple biological and chemical agents, including, among others, smoke from oil well fires, pesticides, organic solvents, the drug pyridostigmine bromide, numerous vaccinations, and saran nerve gas.      Efforts to determine what hazards might be linked to specific symptoms have been limited by inconclusive data on the long-term effects of low-dose exposures, and by poor documentation of troop location during the conflict. In response to concerns about the health of Gulf War veterans, Congress passed Public Law 102-585 -- authorizing health examinations, tasking the NAS to evaluate scientific evidence regarding potential Gulf War exposures, and establishing the Gulf War Veterans Health Registry--and Public Law 102-310, authorizing VA to provide health care services on a priority basis to Gulf War veterans. However, the inability of clinical and scientific evidence to link the symptoms that have been labeled collectively "Gulf War Syndrome" directly to specific wartime exposures proved a barrier to establishing service connection for Gulf War veterans' disabilities.
     In 1994, Congress passed the Persian Gulf War Veterans' Benefits Act as title I of Public Law 103-446, to provide compensation to Gulf War veterans disabled by illnesses that could not be diagnosed or defined at that time, and for which no other causes could be identified. Among other things, this law amended chapter 11 of title 38 so as to add a new section, section 1117, which authorized the Secretary to pay compensation to any Gulf War veteran suffering from a chronic disability resulting from an undiagnosed illness (or combination of undiagnosed illnesses) that became manifest during service in the Gulf War theater or to a degree of 10 percent or more within the presumptive period set by the Secretary in regulations.
     VA has interpreted this authority to limit service connection only to conditions for which no clinical diagnosis can be made. Since the passage of this law, many Gulf War veterans have received diagnosis's for chronic conditions whose causes cannot be identified conclusively, but which prelude them from eligibility for benefits under the current law. Over the last decade, the medical community has increasingly accepted diagnoses such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome to describe multisymptom chronic illnesses without known cause. Under VA's interpretation of its authority, a veteran with a diagnosis of "chronic fatigue of unknown etiology" is eligible for benefits under the current law, but a veteran with a diagnosis of "chronic fatigue syndrome" is not eligible, despite the fact that their symptoms may not differ in any significant way. This situation results not from advances in understanding the causes of symptoms manifested by Gulf War veterans, but from changes in medical terminology in the past decade.
     Because current scientific research has not determined the etiology of veterans' symptoms or the long-term health consequences of Gulf War-era exposures, and because the Department of Defense recently released new estimates of the number and locations of service personnel exposed to nerve agents, extension of this presumptive period beyond the scheduled termination date of December 31, 2001, as set forth in the Federal Register of April 29, 1997, 62 FR 23138-23139, is warranted. Although section 1117 of title 38 authorizes the Secretary to extend the period for presumption of service connection by regulation, the Secretary has not yet acted on this authority.

Committee Bill
     Section 202 of the Committee bill, derived from S. 409, would correct this unintended exclusion of veterans with poorly defined diagnosed illnesses from the "undiagnosed illnesses" provisions in section 1117 of title 38 by adding to the list of conditions that can be service connected "poorly defined chronic multisymptom illnesses of unknown etiology, regardless of diagnosis," characterized by the symptoms already listed in VA regulations. Section 202 does not define Gulf War Syndrome, but authorizes the Secretary to offer compensation to veterans with diagnoses such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome, which are diagnosed in Gulf War veterans more frequently than in age matched control populations. This section also extends the presumptive period for health care and benefits for Gulf War veterans for 10 more years.
     Cost: Section 202 would take effect on April 1, 2001, and because VA takes an average of 6 months to adjudicate reopened claims, CBO expects that no payments would be made in 2002. CBO estimates that enacting section 202 would increase direct spending by $46 million in 2003, $168 million in the 4-year period from 2003 through 2006, and $400 million over the 9-year period, 2003-2011.

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