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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 11, 1998


                  Better Health Care for Our Military, 
                      Veterans, and Their Families

President Clinton today directed the Secretaries of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs to create a Military and Veterans Health Coordinating Board to improve the health protection of our armed forces, veterans, and their families. This Board will oversee the implementation of a new interagency plan requiring better medical record keeping, improved health surveillance, advanced research, and enhanced communications about health risks.

The need for an improved health preparedness plan, in light of troop and veteran health problems that became evident after the Gulf War, was first identified in the December 31, 1996 Final Report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses. The President directed his National Science and Technology Council in April 1997 to develop an interagency health preparedness plan based on the Committee's recommendation.

The plan was prepared by an interagency working group comprised of representatives of the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Health and Human Services, the National Security Council, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Office of Management and Budget.

Copies of the report, A National Obligation: Planning for Health Preparedness for and Readjustment of the Military, Veterans, and Their Families after Future Deployments, are available by faxing requests to 202/456-6025 or on the OSTP web page at:


          President Clinton Releases Plan for Better Health 
         Protection for Armed Forces and Establishes Military 
               and Veterans Health Coordinating Board

                             November 11, 1998

Today, President Clinton will direct the Secretaries of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs to create a Military and Veterans Health Coordinating Board to improve the health protection and care of our armed forces, our veterans, and their families. The President will also announce the release of a National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) report, A National Obligation, that lays out an interagency plan for improving the Federal response to the health needs of our military, veterans and their families.

The interagency working group (IWG) that developed this plan identified the following essential recommendations:

     There must be ongoing coordination of all agencies involved in
     maintaining the health of military members (active duty, National
     Guard, and reservist), veterans, and their families.  Therefore,
     the IWG recommends creation of a Military and Veterans Health
     Coordinating Board (MVHCB).

     To succeed with many of the goals and objectives laid out in this
     plan, the government requires ongoing direction and coordination
     for the Departments' health and personnel information management 
     and record-keeping activities, especially activities associated 
     with deployments.  The IWG recommends that DoD and VA, in 
     consultation with DHHS, establish an ongoing interagency task 
     force to coordinate and set standards for information management 
     and technology efforts.

     DoD should complete implementation of recently issued directives 
     on joint medical surveillance and force health protection.  DoD 
     should proceed with its contract with the National Academy of 
     Sciences (NAS) for a 3-year program of scientific, technical, and 
     policy analysis activities entitled "Strategies to Protect the 
     Health of Deployed U.S. Forces."

     DoD and DHHS, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should accelerate
     their efforts not only to identify regulatory issues associated
     with the use of investigational products during military 
     exigencies, but also develop strategies to resolve them.

     VA, DoD, and DHHS should develop and implement a coordinated
     interagency program to communicate health risk information related
     to current and future deployments, especially combat operations, 
     to military members, veterans, family members, and the public.

     DoD and VA should maintain a robust, biomedical research,
     development, testing, and evaluation program emphasizing research 
     priority areas identified in this plan.

     DoD should ensure that military medical manpower requirements
     include medical scientists with expertise relevant to the health 
     concerns associated with military deployments.

Establishment of the Military and Veterans Health Coordinating Board

The Coordinating Board will improve the level of coordination and communication between Federal agencies that have programs and expertise that can be brought to bear on the special needs associated with troop and veteran health. This has gone on in the past, but through the activities of the Board and its working groups, this will become a more focused and effective process. Once established, the MVHCB would ensure coordination among VA, DoD, and DHHS on a broad range of health care and research issues relating to past, present, and future military service in the U.S. Armed Forces. The MVHCB is modeled on the Persian Gulf Veterans Coordinating Board, which is enhancing interagency coordination especially on research and clinical care related to health issues of Gulf War veterans.