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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 7, 1997


Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses: Ongoing Initiatives

President Clinton established the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses in May 1995 to ensure an independent, open and comprehensive examination of health concerns related to Gulf War service. The Committee published a Final Report on December 31, 1996 which contained numerous recommendations based on a thorough evaluation of the available data on the nature of Gulf War veterans' illnesses and the health effects of suspected risk factors, as well as the Federal Government's programs related to Gulf War veterans' illnesses.

In accepting the Committee's Final Report on January 7, 1997, the President announced his decision to extend the Committee to: (1) provide independent oversight of the ongoing investigation being conducted by the Department of Defense into possible chemical or biological warfare agent exposures during the Gulf War; and (2) evaluate the Federal Government's response to the Committee's recommendations. The President also directed the preparation within 60 days of an action plan for the Committee's recommendations and requested the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to review whether the presumptive period related to the compensation of Gulf War veterans with undiagnosed illnesses should be extended.

The President's actions have resulted in three significant initiatives:

  1. A new recommendation from Secretary Brown -- which the President has accepted -- to initiate rulemaking to extend the eligibility period relating to the compensation of Gulf War veterans with undiagnosed illnesses to December 31, 2001.
  2. Development of an integrated Action Plan, received today from the Secretaries of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs, for implementing the Committee recommendations across the full range of issues relating to the health of Gulf War veterans.
  3. Initiation of a comprehensive Presidential Review Directive (PRD) process to ensure that all relevant agencies effectively promote "Health Preparedness for and Readjustment of Veterans and Their Families After Future Deployments."

These major initiatives reflect the Administration's strong and continuing commitment to ensure that all Gulf War veterans receive the care and benefits they deserve, that we learn as much as we can about the possible causes of undiagnosed Gulf War illnesses, and that we incorporate the lessons learned to better safeguard our forces in future deployments.

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