WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. House of Representatives passed a Defense appropriations bill that includes $20 million for the continued funding of the Gulf War Illness Research Program. Rep. Mike Michaud led efforts to ensure the funding for the program. He worked across the aisle with Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) in sending a letter with nearly 70 bipartisan Members of Congress expressing support for the continuation of the program. Michaud sent the letter to the leadership of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense earlier this spring.
"I'm pleased that we were able to work together across the aisle and maintain this funding that is so important for our veterans who are dealing with the impact of Gulf War Illness," said Michaud. "We have an obligation to do everything we can to support our veterans, which means learning much more than we currently know about Gulf War Illness and what we can do to effectively treat it. These veterans fought fearlessly for our nation during the first Gulf War, and we must continue providing the resources necessary to confront this illness."
In the letter, Michaud and other signers noted: "Research has shown that Gulf War illness is associated with service in the 1991 war; that it affects at least 175,000 veterans; and that it is a physical condition caused by toxic exposures, rather than stress or other psychiatric factors. Symptoms typically include debilitating fatigue, cognitive and other neurologic symptoms, gastrointestinal problems, skin problems, chronic widespread pain, and persistent headaches. Gulf War veterans also have elevated rates of ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease, and there is concern that Gulf War Illness could develop into life-threatening neurological disorders as this population ages. There are currently no effective treatments."
A 2010 Institute of Medicine report called for a sustained, substantial commitment to finding "treatments, cures, and, it is hoped preventions" for Gulf War Illness. Adequate funding of the Gulf War Illness Research Program is critical not only to veterans dealing with the illness, but also to service members who may face similar exposures. And a March 2014 study from the UC San Diego School of Medicine offered a breakthrough when it found that vets suffering from Gulf War Illness have an impaired function of mitochondria -- essentially the energy powerhouses of cells in the body.
A complete copy of the letter is available here.
The Gulf War Illness Research Program is presently the only national program addressing the health condition. It is a competitive, peer-reviewed initiative open to any doctor or scientist on a competitive basis.