Biden administration preparing to compensate some ‘Havana syndrome’ victims up to $200,000

Dating back to at least 2016, US diplomats, spies and service members around the globe have been struck with a mysterious set of symptoms now colloquially known as Havana syndrome. While the US intelligence community has so far been unable to determine what — or who — is causing the spate of injuries, the Biden administration has been under increasing pressure to provide support to victims, some of whom are struggling with steep medical costs and loss of employment due to their injuries.

The CIA and the State Department have been working to develop eligibility guidelines for the compensation payments, required by legislation Congress passed in 2021.

“CIA has been working in partnership with the interagency as part of a process coordinated through the National Security Council on developing implementing guidance required by the Havana Act and we will have more information on that soon,” a CIA official said in a statement on Thursday.

The State Department echoed those comments, with a spokesperson saying the Havana Act authorizes the department to provide payments to personnel for certain qualifying injuries to the brain and requires the department to publish implementing regulations.

“We will have more details to provide on that process soon,” the spokesperson said. “More broadly, the secretary’s top priority is the health, safety and security of the department’s personnel and family members. The department is doing everything possible to ensure that employees who report an AHI [anomalous health incident] receive immediate and appropriate attention and care.”

The Washington Post was first to report on the compensation amounts that some victims are expected to receive.

The Biden administration has already blown past the April deadline to deliver the required regulations, frustrating Congress and victims as the interagency approach to this mysterious illness has already been plagued by dysfunction and complications.

In order to be implemented, the so-called Havana Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law late last year, requires the State Department and the CIA to define what would qualify as an injury to the brain. It does not require the departments to share the same definition.

As victims wait for the rule to be published, there are concerns about the departments potentially coming up with separate definitions, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN. There are also concerns about the two departments coming up with different compensation amounts for the victims, which the legislation also orders them to determine. That could result in two US government employees from different agencies having similar incidents but being compensated with different amounts.

The departments met separately with outside doctors and specialists to determine how they would define an injury to the brain, sources said.

“It is incumbent that the CIA and State use the same criteria to implement the Havana Act. Both for who is considered a victim, and what level of compensation one is entitled to. I remain concerned that both agencies will not follow the intent of what is now law, based on the historic USG failure to take the victims’ cases seriously,” said Marc Polymeropoulos, a former CIA officer who suffered a mysterious attack in Moscow in 2017. “Remember, this law is designed to provide financial relief for victims whose careers and lives have been destroyed, and who have suffered mental, physical and financial hardships.”

In the coming days or weeks the Office of Management and Budget is expected to release those definitions and compensation amounts, after they have gone through a US government review, sources said.

When OMB releases the rule, there will be a 30-day period of public commenting, which will allow those with invested interests to give feedback before the rule is put into place in accordance with the legislation. Victims predict the response could be overwhelming and heated if there are definitions they do not agree with or compensation amounts that seem unfair.

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