Washington (AFP) – The State Department is preparing to compensate victims of a mysterious brain injury known colloquially as “Havana syndrome” with six-figure payments, according to officials and congressional aides.
Officials and aides said current and former State Department employees and their families who have suffered “qualifying injuries” since the cases were first reported among US Embassy employees in Cuba in 2016 will receive payments of between $100,000 and $200,000 each.
The exact amounts will be determined according to the extent and severity of the victims’ injuries, which included brain damage not limited to vertigo, cognitive damage, vision and hearing problems, according to officials and their aides.
Payments will only be applied to victims employed by the State Department and their families. Other victims will receive whatever compensation is handled by the federal agency that employed them. About 20% of the total number of victims are employed or employed by the State Department. Almost all others were employed by the CIA or the Department of Defense, which have their own medical policies.
Officials and aides spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the expected publication next week of a State Department plan to compensate victims under the provisions of the Havana Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law last year.
The draft rule is expected to be published early next week and will not become final until after the 30-day period in which public comment will be requested. The Department of State, along with the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management, will consider comments before enacting a final rule.
The State Department on Thursday declined to discuss the proposed payment amounts, but noted that Havana law authorizes it to “make payments to individuals for certain qualifying brain injuries” and requires it to publish its plans to implement such relief, which it said would happen “soon.”
Despite nearly six years of investigation, scientists, doctors, and government officials have not been able to determine the cause of the injuries, which some have speculated were caused by microwaves or other types of attacks from a foreign power. Russia is often accused of being behind the alleged attacks, although there is no evidence to support such claims.
The mysterious infections first began being reported among US embassy staff in Havana, Cuba, in late 2016 and have since spread to nearly 70 countries on all continents except Antarctica. The number of reports has decreased significantly since the beginning of this year.