VA Establishes New Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illnesses

WASHINGTON, September 9, 1999 (GulfLINK) - As part of an ongoing commitment to veterans of the Persian Gulf War, the Department of Veterans Affairs recently established a new advisory committee. Togo D. West, secretary of veterans affairs, signed a charter on July 19, establishing the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses. The establishment of this committee is in response to the Veterans Programs Enhancement Act of 1998.

"This is an attempt to make sure the concerns and questions of veterans are considered for the research agenda for the future," said Army Col. Frank O'Donnell, M.D., director of medical outreach and issues for the office of the special assistant for Gulf War illnesses. "The new research committee will include veterans in its membership as well as other non-government individuals."

Nominations for the advisory committee's chairperson and membership have poured in since the VA solicited recommendations from the heads of the Department of Defense and Veterans Service Organizations. The VA is seeking qualified non-government members to serve on the advisory committee and its subcommittees. The committee will address research issues related to Gulf War veterans' illnesses.

"This is certainly a good opportunity to empower veterans in a formal way so that they have input into the research agenda," said O'Donnell. "The advisory committee will serve a dual purpose. It is an avenue through which veterans groups gain better insight into the process and how research agenda is set."

Ultimately, the selection of the chairperson and its 15 committee members-which is expected to be announced in the next few weeks-will be approved by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

The committee aim is to provide advice on proposed research, plans or studies relating to the health consequences of military service in Southwest Asia and during the Gulf War. Additionally, the committee will work closely with the Persian Gulf Veterans Coordinating Board's Research Working Group that provides guidance and coordination for current research sponsored by the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services.

Currently, the federal government has more than 144 completed or ongoing research projects in search of causes and treatments for Gulf War illnesses. These projects cover a broad range of subjects, from basic research to larger, more in-depth studies focused on veterans' symptoms.