House passes bill to compensate ‘Havana syndrome’ victims

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The House cleared bipartisan legislation on Tuesday that would authorize payments to government employees injured by anomalous health incidents — known as “Havana syndrome” — while serving abroad.

The bill, which lawmakers approved by a 427-0 vote, now heads to President Biden’s desk for his signature after the Senate unanimously passed it in June.

It specifically authorizes the CIA and State Department to provide financial support to employees who have suffered brain injuries inflicted by the mysterious syndrome. The intelligence community still doesn’t have an official explanation for the symptoms, which can include headaches, memory loss and dizziness — more than four years after the first cases were reported in Havana, Cuba.

At least 200 American diplomats, spies and other government employees have reported symptoms of the mysterious condition, which some officials believe may be a result of directed energy attacks, according to NBC News.

CNN reported this week that a member of CIA Director Bill Burns’s team reported symptoms consistent with Havana syndrome while they traveled to India earlier this month, and had to receive medical treatment.

And last month, a planned trip by Vice President Harris to Vietnam was delayed when multiple U.S. personnel in Hanoi reported symptoms shortly before her visit.

“Simply put, this is kinda scary stuff,” Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said during House floor debate. “The people who serve our nation overseas are generally worried for themselves and their families. And they need to know that we have their backs.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said that any benefits paid to affected government employees should be treated as payments received as compensation for worker compensation acts for taxation purposes.

“We will continue to prioritize this issue and put our people first,” Schiff said.

CNN also reported in May that the attacks have struck close to home in addition to abroad. Two officials on the National Security Council were affected in November, including one who was passing through a gate to the White House.

Lawmakers debated the bill on the House floor in late July, but a vote on its passage was postponed until Tuesday because members of the House Freedom Caucus have been demanding roll call votes in recent months on dozens of noncontroversial bills that are typically passed via voice vote.

Tags Adam Schiff Bill Burns compensation Cuba diplomats havana syndrome Joe Biden legislation Michael McCaul
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