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House unanimously passes bill to aid

The House of Representatives on Tuesday unanimously passed legislation that would authorize payments to those impacted by “Havana Syndrome” — a mysterious illness known to produce neurological symptoms that has affected scores of U.S. officials and personnel in multiple countries. The Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks Act, also known as the HAVANA Act, now goes to President Joe Biden’s desk for approval.

“There is no higher priority than protecting our people. None,” Representative Adam Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. “As we examine the cause of the illness known as Havana Syndrome, we must ensure those impacted get the care they deserve.”

The bill authorizes government agencies to pay personnel who suffered from injuries related to Havana Syndrome while on the job. Those affected both before and after the bill is enacted will be eligible for payments.

Symptoms of “Havana Syndrome” have included severe headaches, dizziness, tinnitus, visual and hearing problems, vertigo and cognitive issues. Some have even been diagnosed with brain injuries. Last year, the National Academies of Sciences, in an assessment that was requested by the State Department, said the “most plausible” cause of the officials’ symptoms was “directed, pulsed, radiofrequency energy.”    

The Senate first passed the HAVANA Act on June 7 in a bipartisan effort spearheaded by Senators Susan Collins, Mark Warner, Marco Rubio and Jeanne Shaheen.

“This law will provide needed resources to the brave men and women of our Intelligence Community who put so much on the line to safeguard our democracy and our national security.” Warner, a Democrat from Virginia said. 

“U.S. personnel and their loved ones who’ve fallen victim to these directed energy attacks deserve access to the care they need to recover – full stop,” Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, said in a statement Tuesday. “It’s unacceptable that so many public servants and their families have faced needless red tape in securing the medical attention they need to get well.”  

Several U.S. officials have reported symptoms consistent with Havana Syndrome this year after working in multiple overseas locations. The cases, which are believed to have affected U.S. personnel since 2016, have been described as an “increasing” pattern of suspected “attacks” on U.S. officials. Officials have yet to determine who could be behind the attacks.

“There is no doubt that the victims who have suffered brain injuries must be provided with adequate care and compensation,” Rubio said. “Further, it is critical that our government continues the investigation to hold accountable those behind these attacks and that we immediately respond. I urge the President to sign this legislation as soon as possible.”

Olivia Gazis contributed reporting.

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