DENVER — Congressman Mike Coffman, one of the most vulnerable–and active–Republicans in the House, is set to see another one of his bill’s pass out of the full chamber on Wednesday.
In a do-nothing Congress, the Aurora Republican, who is fighting for his political life in a re-drawn 6th Congressional District this fall, has stood out as one of the top five members in terms of passing bills that have actually been signed into law, having had three of his bills become law.
Coffman’s Gulf War Health Research Reform Act of 2014, which is set to be voted on by the full House Wednesday afternoon, seeks to make the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses an independent committee within the VA, requires that a majority of the board’s members be appointed by the committee’s chairman, and returns oversight responsibilities for Gulf War illness research.
It also asks that the VA consider animal studies when looking at toxic exposures, “as Congress has previously ordered.”
The act comes after a year of animosity between the VA and the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (RAC), an independent body charged with overseeing the VA’s Gulf War illness research.
Coffman’s House Veteran’s Affairs Subcommittee for Oversight and Investigation (O& I) found the VA to be exercising too much control over the RAC, limiting its ability to effectively and independently carry out its Congressionally-mandated role to improve the lives of Gulf War veterans.
“As a Gulf War veteran, I’ve been extremely disappointed at the actions of VA staff to misdirect Gulf War illnesses research by reviving the scientifically discredited concept that ‘the same thing happens after every war’, and to eliminate oversight, just as science is finally making some progress,” said Coffman. “The Gulf War Health Research Reform Act of 2014 is an effort to find treatments that will impact the quality of life for Gulf War veterans.”
Coffman has charged that the RAC was stacked with members biased toward seeing Gulf War veterans’ illnesses as having a psychosomatic rather than biological basis–dismissing them as no different than what veterans experience after serving in any war.
Coffman, who served in the Marines during the first Gulf War and the Iraq War, was the first member of Congress to call on VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign over the scandal involving alleged deception about the waiting time for treatment at veterans hospitals and the chronic mismanagement of new VA Hospital construction projects, including the one being built in Aurora within his congressional district.