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The state department must pay 6-digit amounts to victims of the Havana syndrome

Written by Javed Iqbal

WASHINGTON (AP) – The State Department is preparing to compensate victims of mysterious brain damage in everyday speech known as “Havana Syndrome” with six-digit payments, according to officials and a congressional assistant.

Current and former State Department staff and their families, who suffered “qualifying injuries” since cases were first reported among U.S. embassy staff in Cuba in 2016, will receive payments of between about $ 100,000 and $ 200,000 each, officials and aides said.

Specific amounts will be determined based on the extent and severity of the victims’ injuries, which have included brain injuries, not limited to dizziness, cognitive impairment, vision and hearing problems, according to officials and aides.

The payments will only apply to victims employed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and their relatives. Other victims will have any compensation handled by the federal agency that hired them. About 20% of the total number of victims are or were employed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Almost all of the others were employed by the CIA or the Department of Defense, which has its own medical policies.

Officials and the assistant spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the expected publication next week of the State Department’s plan to compensate victims under the terms of the HAVANA Act, which President Joe Biden signed last year.

This draft rule is expected to be published early next week and will only become final after a 30-day period in which public comments will be requested. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personal Management, will consider the comments before adopting a final rule.

The Foreign Ministry on Thursday declined to discuss the amounts of the proposed payments, but noted that the HAVANA Act allows it to “provide payments to staff for certain qualified brain injuries” and requires it to publish its plans for implementing such emergency assistance, as it said would happen “soon”.

Despite nearly six years of investigation, scientists, doctors and officials have not been able to determine the cause of the damage, which some have speculated is the result of microwaves or other forms of attack by a foreign power. Russia is most often accused of being behind the alleged attacks, although there has been no evidence to support such allegations.

The mysterious damage first began to be reported among U.S. embassy staff in Havana, Cuba, in late 2016 and has since spread to nearly 70 countries on all continents except Antarctica. The number of reports has dropped drastically since the beginning of this year.

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Javed Iqbal

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