November 11, 1998
MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
THE SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
THE SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
SUBJECT: Creation of Military and Veterans Health Coordinating Board
Our Nation is truly indebted to our active duty military, reservist, National Guard, and veterans for protecting America's interests around the globe. From small peacekeeping missions to large combat operations, these men and women put their lives on the line to ensure our peace and prosperity at home and abroad. We owe them and their families a great debt. We have an obligation to protect their health while they serve and to care for their service-connected injuries or illnesses for as long as they live.
Our experience with the Gulf War demonstrated that we were not adequately prepared to deal with the health consequences resulting from a large-scale combat deployment in the unique environment our soldiers faced. The aftermath of this conflict underscored the need to improve significantly our ability to address post-deployment health problems. Your extensive efforts to understand the causes and treat the illnesses experienced by Gulf War veterans have identified numerous deficiencies in the way we prepare for and deal with the health of our military, veterans, and their families. I am pleased that we are applying these lessons learned from the Gulf War and other recent military missions to current and future military deployments.
In its December 31, 1996, report, my Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses recommended that the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) review existing Federal policies and programs and develop an interagency plan "to address health preparedness for and readjustment of veterans and families after future conflicts and peacekeeping missions." The NSTC's plan, developed by your departments, identifies
numerous actions, including improved health protection for military forces, which must be taken to avoid the mistakes of the past. One of the key recommendations contained in the plan is to establish a Military and Veterans Health Coordinating Board to continue improving the coordination among your depart-ments and to oversee the implementation of the NSTC's plan.
Therefore, I direct you to establish the Military and Veterans Health Coordinating Board and report annually to the Assistants to the President for National Security Affairs and for Science and Technology on its progress. Specifically, the Board should focus on issues associated with deployment health, research, and communications regarding health risks. In addition, the Board must ensure that record-keeping requirements linked to military and veterans health prepared-ness, health protection for military forces, disease preven-tion, and medical care are incorporated into your departments' relevant information technology and information management systems.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON