October 31, 1997

Clinton To Back Gulf Illness Study

Filed at 7:34 p.m. EST

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Clinton is likely to endorse calls for a permanent scientific system to assess links between veterans' unexplained illnesses and service in the Gulf War, an administration official said Friday.

The purpose would be to establish which of a host of respiratory, neurological and other mysterious ailments reported by thousands of U.S. veterans are related to their service in the Gulf, and to set a basis for compensation.

This would be in line with a recommendation by a White House-chartered panel, the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, which was presenting its final report to Clinton on Friday.

This approach also is championed by Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. He and Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota introduced legislation last week requiring a scientific review of links between illnesses and Gulf War service.

``An independent scientific process is the best hope to get our veterans answers and the treatment they need so they can get healthy and get on with their lives,'' Rockefeller said.

Among the presidential advisory panel's expected recommendations is that Congress pass a law requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to contract with an independent body such as the National Academy of Sciences to determine a scientific basis for concluding that certain of veterans' illness can be linked to the Gulf War.

The administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Clinton will endorse that approach. Clinton created the advisory committee in May 1995 and extended its mandate last January by asking it to review the Defense Department's search for links between Gulf War illnesses and troop exposures to chemicals.

Panel members have been critical of the Pentagon's handling of the chemical exposure issue, citing an unreasonable reluctance on the part of the Pentagon to accept that some Iraqi chemical agents were present in southern Iraq during the war.

The Pentagon also has come under fire from Congress. The House Government Reform and Oversight Committee on Friday approved a subcommittee report that called the Pentagon's approach ``irreparably flawed.''

The House report calls for the Pentagon to be stripped of its lead role in the Gulf War Illness investigations.

The presidential advisory committee, while critical of some aspects of the Pentagon's efforts, has not explicitly recommended that it be removed from the lead role.

The advisory group also has not offered a clear explanation for the cause of the Gulf War illnesses. It has cited wartime stress as a likely contributing factor and said exposure to chemical agents was probably not a cause. The Pentagon also has said it can find no firm evidence that chemicals caused illnesses.

© Copyright 1997 The Associated Press

Return to Gulf Clippings Index ---- Return to Jim Turner's page ----