Biden administration prepares to compensate some ‘Havana syndrome’ victims up to $200,000
By Kylie Atwood, Katie Bo Lillis and Jennifer Hansler, CNN
Some victims of the mysterious “Havana Syndrome“should be paid between $100,000 and $200,000 by the U.S. government — depending on the extent of their injuries and the department they work for — according to two congressional aides familiar with the administration’s deliberations and a former official intelligence.
Since at least 2016, diplomats, spies and American servicemen around the world have been plagued with a mysterious set of symptoms now known as Havana Syndrome. While the US intelligence community has so far been unable to determine what – or who – is behind the wave of injuries, the Biden administration is under increasing pressure to provide support to the victims, some of whom are struggling with high medical bills and job loss due to their injuries.
The CIA and State Department worked to develop eligibility guidelines for compensation, required by legislation passed by Congress in 2021.
“The CIA has worked in partnership with the interagency through a process coordinated by the National Security Council on developing the implementation guidelines required by the Havana Act and we will soon have more information about it,” a CIA official said in a statement Thursday. .
The State Department echoed those comments, with a spokesperson saying Havana law authorizes the department to make payments to personnel for certain eligible brain injuries and requires the department to issue implementing regulations.
“We will have more details to provide on this process soon,” the spokesperson said. “More broadly, the Secretary’s top priority is the health, safety and security of department staff and their family members. The ministry makes every effort to ensure that employees who report an AHI [anomalous health incident] receive immediate and appropriate attention and care.
The Washington Post was the first to report on the amounts of compensation that certain victims should receive.
The Biden administration has already missed the April deadline to deliver the required regulations, frustrating Congress and victims as the interagency approach to this mysterious disease has already been plagued with dysfunctions and complications.
To be implemented, the so-called The Havana Law, which President Joe Biden signed into law late last year forces the State Department and the CIA to define what would be considered brain injury. It does not require departments to share the same definition.
As victims wait for the rule to be released, there are concerns that departments may come up with separate definitions, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN. There are also concerns that the two ministries offer different amounts of compensation for victims, which the legislation also directs them to determine. This could result in two US government employees from different agencies having similar incidents but being compensated with different amounts.
The departments met separately with doctors and outside specialists to determine how they would define brain injury, sources said.
“It behooves the CIA and the state to use the same criteria to implement the Havana Act. Both to know who is considered a victim and to what level of compensation one is entitled. I remain concerned that both agencies will not follow the intent of what is now law, based on the historic failure of the U.S. government to take victims’ cases seriously,” said Marc Polymeropoulosa former CIA officer who suffered a mysterious attack in Moscow in 2017. “Remember that this law is designed to provide financial assistance to victims whose careers and lives have been destroyed and who have suffered mental difficulties , physical and financial.
In the coming days or weeks, the Office of Management and Budget is expected to release those definitions and compensation amounts, after being reviewed by the U.S. government, sources said.
When the OMB publishes the rule, there will be a 30-day public comment period, allowing those with vested interests to provide input before the rule is put into place as required by law. Victims predict the response could be overwhelming and passionate if there are definitions they disagree with or compensation amounts that seem unfair.
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