“From the beginning, the VA has refused to honestly face the problems that face veterans,” said Joel Graves, a Gulf War veteran who until last year had served on a committee advising the VA on research priorities related to the illness.
Graves and others contend that the agency has refused to recognize Gulf War illness as a unique physiological condition, maintaining instead that it is psychosomatic or the result of stress. The VA, they claim, has obstructed research into Gulf War illness, stacked scientific review panels with members who would favour a psychological explanation and defanged the research advisory committee (RAC) that Graves served on. As a result, critics contend, thousands of soldiers have found it difficult to get a diagnosis or related health benefits. At the meeting, James Binns, an attorney and chair of the RAC, called the VA’s actions “morally and intellectually bankrupt”.