Funding for victims of 'Havana syndrome' to be included in Pentagon bill 

Funding for victims of 'Havana syndrome' to be included in Pentagon bill 
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Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsReal relief from high gas prices The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden to announce increased measures for omicron Collins says she supports legislation putting Roe v. Wade protections into law MORE (R-Maine) on Monday said she has secured funding in the Department of Defense draft appropriations bill to implement the recently passed HAVANA Act, a federal law that includes assistance for U.S. officials impacted by mysterious health incidents that some argue are targeted attacks.

The Maine senator did not disclose the potential level of funding because it is included in the classified annex of the appropriations draft bill like other funding for the intelligence community.

Publicly disclosing the number could reveal sensitive information on Havana syndrome cases, a congressional aide told The Hill.

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An estimated 200 U.S. officials, including diplomats, intelligence officers and executive branch members, are believed to be victims of so-called Havana syndrome, a medical mystery where victims have reported intense, debilitating health symptoms alongside the occurrence of specific noises and intense pressure.

Reports of Havana syndrome have occurred among U.S. officials across the world and in Washington, D.C. Some have reported suffering long-term health consequences and have had to go on medical leave.

The Biden administration has taken to calling these reports “anomalous health incidents,” or AHI, a controversial term that some advocates say downplays concerns that U.S. officials are being specifically targeted and attacked and from what some describe as a “directed energy” source.

Yet the administration has sought to prioritize investigations into the source of the health incidents, both the method causing the injuries — which medical evaluations have determined to include traumatic brain injury similar to a concussion — and whether there is a perpetrator, with some intelligence assessments reportedly suggesting that Russia is behind the targeting of officials.

President BidenJoe BidenManchin to vote to nix Biden's vaccine mandate for larger businesses Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Senate cuts deal to clear government funding bill MORE earlier this month signed into law the HAVANA Act, authored by Collins, which authorizes the director of the CIA and the secretary of State to provide additional financial support for U.S. officials who are determined to be victims of AHIs and requires that the agencies create regulations for “fair and equitable criteria for payment.”

“As the government investigates the source of previous attacks and seeks to prevent future ones, the HAVANA Act I authored will provide critical relief to Americans who are experiencing debilitating symptoms likely caused by a directed energy weapon,” Collins said in a statement.

“I will continue to push for the full implementation and funding of the HAVANA Act during the ongoing Appropriations process to ensure that victims receive the support they deserve,” she added.

The securing of funding comes as pressure increases on the State Department from lawmakers to do more to address the phenomenon.

Last week, senators in both parties called on the State Department to “immediately” appoint a high-level official to oversee the Department’s response to AHIs, following the departure in September of the agency’s point person, Pamela Spratlen.

“We urge you to immediately announce a successor to Ambassador Spratlen to lead the Department’s Health Incident Response Task Force. Critically, this post must be a senior-level official that reports directly to you,” the lawmakers wrote.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price responded to the letter at the time, saying the Department would be in a position to fill Spratlen's role "in the coming days."