Chairman Schiff Speaks on House Floor in Support of HAVANA Act
Washington DC, July 26, 2021
Today, Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, spoke on the House Floor in support of the Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks Act of 2021, or the HAVANA Act. The bill, which Schiff introduced with Reps. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), will grant additional authority to the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Secretary of State to provide disability benefits to Americans afflicted by the anomalous health incidents in Havana, Cuba and around the world.
As prepared for delivery:
Madam/Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the HAVANA Act. I was proud to introduce this legislation in the House, and I appreciate the continued support from Ranking Member Nunes, Chairman Meeks, and Ranking Member McCaul in moving this legislation through the House and to the President’s desk.
Every day, thousands of patriotic Americans serve our country abroad, representing our values and interests across the globe.
They are diplomats, soldiers, intelligence officers, and more. But we must never forget they are also mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and sons and daughters who routinely make tremendous personal sacrifices in service of their country. And in return for their service to our nation, we have a sacred responsibility to make sure we take care of them. That’s what this bill does.
Over the past several years, public servants from the Intelligence Community and elsewhere have experienced symptoms of unknown origins. These cases, which have been described as Havana Syndrome or anomalous health incidents, named for the cohort whose symptoms onset in Havana, remain a mystery. But two things are clear.
First, we must spare no effort to identify their source, and to hold anyone responsible accountable. And second, we must ensure those who are injured receive the highest quality of care and benefits they need as they recover.
The HAVANA Act does just that. It would adjust and expand the authority we gave to the Intelligence Community and State Department in 2019 to provide compensation for those experiencing these injuries to also include those suffering from traumatic brain injuries. Members of both parties have united behind this critical legislation to provide benefits to afflicted individuals.
I also want to take a moment to clarify our intent with this bill. Due to the unique circumstances under which the payments would be authorized to covered employees, individuals, and dependents for certain qualifying brain injuries, it's our intent that for taxation purposes, any benefits paid shall be treated as payments received under workmen’s compensation acts as compensation for personal injuries or sickness.
Even as we pass this legislation, our work is not done. On a bipartisan basis, the Intelligence Committee has continued to provide rigorous oversight of how individuals experiencing these health incidents were treated and how they are being treated today. We will continue to prioritize this issue and put our people first.