The controversial Research Advisory Committee (RAC) on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses is searching for new members, in a request for nominations placed by the VA in the Federal Register.
In continuing efforts to understand and treat veterans’ health consequences of service in Southwest Asia theatre during the 1990-91 Gulf War, the committee provides advice to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on proposed research studies, plans and strategies. Put simply, the goal of Gulf War-related government research should be to improve the health of ill Gulf War veterans. The Committee helps the VA by providing advice on proposed Gulf War research activities, but it hasn’t come without controversy.
In 2013, the VA altered the charter of the committee, moving away from an independent board to one where VA personnel could provide committee members. The VA also cut the board’s budget and further limited its independence in response to the board’s vote of no-confidence to the VA following testimony from a whistleblower that the VA intentionally misled the public about research that would lead to costly benefits for veterans.
According to USA TODAY, “The committees’s work led to a 450-page 2008 report that showed Gulf War illness is a physical condition, rather than one caused by stress or psychiatric illnesses. The report also showed that the symptoms are related to toxins, such as sarin, anti-nerve-agent pills and insect repellents, that the troops were exposed to during the war. A 2012 report by the group also said that VA staff was working to reverse those findings. For example, a survey VA sent out to Gulf War veterans focused on psychiatric issues, rather than physical exposures.”
The Research Advisory Committee (RAC) on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses was created by an act of Congress in 1998 (Public Law 105-368, § 104).
No Federal employees or federally-registered lobbyists serve on the Federal advisory committee. Instead, committee members will be chosen from the general public and may include Gulf War Veterans, Veteran Representatives, and members from the medical and scientific communities. Experts in epidemiology, immunology, environmental health, neurology, and toxicology are needed.
A successful and balanced committee consists of engaged members with relevant expertise, experience, varying points of view, and a passion for their work. In choosing Committee members, considerations are given to regional representation, race/ethnicity, professional expertise, war era service, gender, enlisted/officer status, length of service, and branch of service. Significant deployment experience and experience running large organizations will also be considered.
Committee members serve as Special Government Employees for a 2–3 year term. The Committee meets up to three times each year, and provides an annual report summarizing activities for the preceding year.
Committee membership nomination package requirements can be found at https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-22057. Nominations must be received by 4 p.m. EST October 9, 2015.