A bill passed by the House would extend the Veterans Affairs Department's authority to provide health care to Persian Gulf War veterans and establish an advisory committee to help the government cope with the health consequences of gulf war illnesses.

The bill, passed Monday by voice, gives the VA special authority to treat illnesses that may have resulted from service in any combat period after the Vietnam War or any future war, and states that this treatment will be available for five years after a veteran's discharge.The measure also extends through the end of 2001 the VA's authority to provide care to gulf war veterans and gives them higher access priority to VA health care. The bill needs Senate consideration.