20 Oct VA-RAC meeting comments
This was my first RAC Meeting and around 10 AM on Monday I came down with a severe migraine. I missed Tues & Wed due to this migraine.
My take on the first day, was the RAC is vastly understaffed, underbudgeted, and they are being ignored by other offices within the VA. At one point Steve Robinson read the RAC’s charter to make the point that if requests for information by RAC members were being ignored that they did have a mighty big stick to wield.
One major problem that comes as no surprise is the lack of progress in combining DoD and VA databases. All the members felt this was critical for research purposes.
A second problem is the RAC are not being informed of new projects and have basically been told they do not have any input anyway. R&D puts out a request for studies in a general area of medicine, and will not put out a specific request as that stifles the researchers creativity. Also any studies that would help the Gulf War community are put in the hopper with all the other funding requests that some nebulous board votes on.
A third problem is the VA does not fund studies outside the VA, even if they do not have the expertise within house. Up to this point, I thought the purpose of the RAC was to evaluate both VA and non-VA study requests and make recommendations. So much for that idea!
DR Haley stated it was normal procedure for civilian researchers to get a VA doctor as a partner, but how many doctors want to shoot their careers in the foot with the current hostility at the mid- bureaucratic level, towards the Gulf War problem. Many believe the GW vets problems are psychiatric in nature anyway.
While I believe all on the board are giving it their best, there is not much to show over the last year. I was unhappy that the audience was not able to participate on Monday, but was told by Venus that the RAC did a 180 on Tuesday.
I was too sick to speak during the five minutes I was allotted on Monday, but had I been able to in addition to telling the board what had helped me treatment wise I would also have asked if we would ever get any feedback on the letters and email that they had received from the public. Maybe next time.
CDR Dave Seipel