12-Member Panel to Advise Gulf War Illness Research

A Vietnam veteran will head a 12-member panel formed to advise Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi on Gulf War illness research, the VA said Wednesday.

Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Leo Mackay Jr. announced the panel of scientists, business people, veterans and veteran advocates in a news conference. The panel was mandated in a 1998 law that was never implemented during the Clinton administration.

The panel includes some critics of government-supported research on Gulf War illness and is meant to "hasten the cures, alleviate the suffering and put an end to a decade of turmoil," Mackay said.

"The sick and the suffering veterans need answers," he said.

The panel will be led by James Binns Jr., a Vietnam War veteran and former chairman of a medical equipment company in Tempe, Ariz. Binns said other government panels have been slow to follow up on evidence that Gulf War illness was a real malady and research that might lead to cures.

"I wonder why the attitude hasn't been, 'Let's jump on this. Let's pursue these encouraging bits of research,"' Binns said. "I think that's where we can make a difference."

Veterans of the Gulf War have complained of various maladies, including memory loss, anxiety, fatigue, nausea and chronic muscle and joint pain. Recently, the VA announced research findings that Gulf Veterans are nearly twice as likely to develop Lou Gehrig's disease as other military personnel.

Mackay said at least $150 million has been spent on 200 studies on the subject. A presidential panel concluded in December 2000 that none of the research has validated any specific cause and that more study is needed.