HAVANA Act of 2021 Passes Congress, Heads to President Biden’s Desk

 

We blogged about the Havana Act in August 2021 (see Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks Act of 2021 Awaits Passage in the House, You Can Help). On September 21, the House unanimously passed legislation in a 427-0 vote to compensate USG employees who experienced traumatic brain injuries while serving in Cuba, China and other locations, also known as the Havana Syndrome. The U.S. Senate passed the HAVANA Act in June. The bill now heads to the White House for President Biden’s signature.

Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks Act of 2021 Awaits Passage in the House, You Can Help

The HAVANA Act of 2021 or the Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks Act of 2021 passed/agreed to in Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent on 6/7/21.

Summary: This bill specifically authorizes the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of State, and other agencies to provide payments to agency personnel who incur brain injuries from hostilities while on assignment.

Specifically, the bill allows agency personnel and their families to receive payments for brain injuries that are incurred (1) during a period of assignment to a foreign or domestic duty station; (2) in connection with war, insurgency, hostile acts, terrorist activity, or other agency-designated incidents; and (3) not as the result of willful misconduct.

The bill’s authority applies to injuries incurred before, on, or after the date of the bill’s enactment. Agencies must submit classified reports on the bill’s implementation, including the number of payments made and the amount of each payment.

Since 2016, some intelligence, diplomatic, and other governmental personnel have reported experiencing unusual cognitive and neurological impairments while on assignment (particularly abroad), the source of which is currently under investigation. Symptoms were first reported by personnel stationed in Cuba and have since been collectively referred to as Havana Syndrome.

S.1828 Havana Act of 2021 was introduced by Sen. Collins, Susan M. [R-ME] on 05/25/2021. It has 19 senators as co-sponsors.
Section 3 of S.1828 provides the authority to pay personnel of the Department of State for certain injuries of the brain.
The Act requires mandatory classified reporting for a budget/spend plan for the use of the authority detailing total amount expended, number of covered employees, dependents and individuals to whom payments were made, and amount provided. It also requires an assessment of “whether additional authorities are required to ensure that covered dependents, covered employees and covered individuals can receive payments for qualifying injuries, such as a qualifying injury to the back or heart.”
A companion bill H.R.3356 – HAVANA Act of 2021 was introduced in the House by Rep. Schiff, Adam B. [D-CA-28] on 5/19/21. It has 22 co-sponsors as of this writing.
Similarly, Section 3 of H.R.3356 provides the authority to pay State Department personnel for certain injuries.
The House version also provides the following:

“(A) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary or other agency head described in paragraph (1) that provides payment under such paragraph shall prescribe regulations to carry out this subsection.

“(B) ELEMENTS.—The regulations prescribed under subparagraph (A) shall include regulations detailing fair and equitable criteria for payment under paragraph (1).

“(4) NO EFFECT ON OTHER BENEFITS.—Payments made under paragraph (1) are supplemental to any other benefit furnished by the United States Government for which a covered dependent, dependent of a former employee, covered employee, former employee, or covered individual is entitled, and the receipt of such payments may not affect the eligibility of such a person to any other benefit furnished by the United States Government.”.

GovTrack currently has a 38% chance for this bill to get enacted. It needs to pass the Committee, the House, then the Senate (bill needs to be in identical form) and then signed by the President to become law.
You can help by contacting your Congressional Representatives and urging them to pass H.R. 3356.

 

###