Bill to support ‘Havana Syndrome’ victims introduced by Collins, Warner, Rubio, Shaheen
A bipartisan group of 15 senators introduced the Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks Act this week.
The legislation was co-authored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Mark Warner (D-VA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and co-sponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Burr (R-NC), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Angus King (I-ME), and James Risch (R-ID).
“Havana Syndrome” is the term given to an illness that first surfaced among more than 40 U.S. Embassy staff in Havana, Cuba, beginning in 2016. Since then, at least a dozen U.S. diplomats at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou suffered symptoms “consistent with the effects of directed, pulsed, radiofrequency energy,” and there have been according to the press more than 130 total cases among American personnel, including on U.S. soil.
Ailments have included dizziness, tinnitus, visual problems, vertigo, and cognitive difficulties, and many affected personnel continue to suffer from health problems years later. The HAVANA Act would give the CIA Director and the Secretary of State additional authority to provide financial support to those suffering from brain injuries as a result of these attacks.
“The injuries that many ‘Havana Syndrome’ victims have endured are significant and life-altering. To make matters worse, some of the victims did not receive the financial and medical support they should have expected from their government when they first reported their injuries. This is an outrageous failure on behalf of our government,” Collins said. “I have spoken to CIA Director Burns about these attacks, and I am heartened by the commitments that he and others have made to the Senate Intelligence Committee to care for the victims and to get to the bottom of these attacks. We need a whole-of-government approach to identify the adversary who is targeting American personnel. The public servants who work in our embassies and consulates overseas make many personal sacrifices to represent America’s interests abroad. They deserve our strong support when they are harmed in the line of duty just as we care for soldiers injured on the battlefield.”
“This bipartisan legislation is an important first step in ensuring that our diplomats and intelligence officers who have been injured in the field are afforded access to the healthcare and the benefits that they need, especially for symptoms that are consistent with those of traumatic brain injury. For almost five years, we have been aware of reports of mysterious attacks on U.S. government personnel stationed in Cuba and in other countries around the world,” Warner said. “The Intelligence Committee has pushed the government to find out what is going on, hold those responsible to account, and ensure these attacks stop. But we also need to guarantee that the brave men and women – and their families – who represent America overseas and keep our nation safe every day are taken care of if they are injured in the line of duty. As Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I know the hardships, sacrifices and risks our IC officers, diplomats and other personnel serving overseas endure. The very least we can do is to put financial safeguards in place to ensure that for those afflicted by these attacks can get proper medical attention and treatment.”
“I’m proud to reintroduce this legislation to provide the CIA Director and the Secretary of State the authorities needed to properly assist U.S. personnel who have endured these attacks while serving our nation,” Rubio said. “There is no doubt that the victims of the Havana Syndrome, who have suffered brain injuries, must be provided with adequate care and compensation.”
“It’s unacceptable that American public servants and their families have suffered alone for years with these mysterious brain injuries, without full transparency or guarantee of treatment. Our personnel deserve better. That’s why I’ve been sounding the alarm to get to the bottom of these attacks and provide critical support to those who’ve fallen victim to these attacks,” Shaheen said. “I’m proud to join Senator Collins and this bipartisan group of lawmakers to build on my efforts and provide more equitable care for those who’ve been injured so we can ensure all those affected – regardless of what agency they served – are properly compensated for injuries they suffered while serving our country. I’ll continue to work across the aisle in Congress to make this issue a top priority and will keep raising this with the administration to form a whole-of-government response to uncover the source of these attacks and take care of those who’ve been targeted.”
The HAVANA Act would authorize the CIA Director and the Secretary of State to provide injured employees with additional financial support for brain injuries. Both the CIA and State Department would be required to create regulations detailing fair and equitable criteria for payment. This legislation would also require the CIA and State Department to report to Congress on how this authority is being used and if additional legislative or administrative action is required.
Click here to read the text of the bill.