VA Compensation for Gulf War Illnesses

Not long after the 1991 Gulf War and later Iraq War began, veterans began returning home with a number of mysterious the difficult to treat illnesses. Veterans struggled with fatigue, joint pain, mysterious skin rashes, respiratory issues and high numbers of extremely rare diseases like ALS (better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

Congress passed laws as early as 1994 to ensure that Gulf War veterans received the medical care and compensation they earned. Despite those laws, VA continues to deny Gulf War claims as much as 90{af6e83512be7e3b4cecc791bda27e84cdebe7671cbbd222b753a29df54d2caa8} of the time.  Before you file a Gulf War illnesses claim, it’s important to understand what you are filing. VA doesn’t consider “Gulf War Syndrome” as a term that you can file for – but there are many specific conditions that are presumptive for Gulf War veterans.

Who is considered a Gulf War veteran?

VA defines a Gulf War veteran as:

  • Served in active service in Southwest Asia theater of operations after August 2, 1990
  • Includes these areas:
    • Iraq
    • Kuwait
    • Saudi Arabia
    • Neutral Zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia
    • Bahrain
    • Qatar
    • United Arab Ermirates
    • Oman
    • Gulf of Aden
    • Gulf of Oman
    • Persian Gulf
    • Arabian Sea
    • Red Sea
    • Air spaces above these locations

What conditions are presumptive for Gulf War veterans?

There are four main types of health conditions that are considered presumptive for Gulf War veterans. Each of these has their own special requirements. They are:

  • Particulate matter exposure conditions (rhinitis, asthma and sinusitis)
  • Chronic Multisymptom Illnesses such as Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, functional gastrointestinal disorders
  • Undiagnosed chronic illnesses
  • Endemic disease

Particulate Matter/Burn Pit Exposures

I intend to do another post specifically about burn pit and particulate matter exposures, however the basics are pretty clear. To qualify for service connection for these conditions (as of April 2022) you must have:

  • A diagnosis of chronic athsma, rhinitis or sinusitis
  • The symptoms or “manifestation” of the illness must have first appeared within 10 years of service
  • Served in the Gulf War theater as described above, or in Afghanistan or Djibouti after September 11, 2001.

Note that the House recently passed legislation which will expand benefits for veterans with particulate matter exposure. The Senate has yet to take up a vote. I’ll be sure to post about it when this passes in to law.

Medically Unexplained Chronic Multisymptom Illnesses (MUCMI)

This category of Gulf War related illnesses includes a group of primarily autoimmune type disorders which are diagnosed but have no clear medical explanation. They include:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Myalgic Encaphalomyeltis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), functional dyspepsia, vomiting, constipation, boating, abdominal pain syndrome and dyphagia

For these conditions, they must be a) A minimum of 10{af6e83512be7e3b4cecc791bda27e84cdebe7671cbbd222b753a29df54d2caa8} disabling, and b) must manifest before December 31, 2026.

Undiagnosed Illnesses

Gulf War veterans suffer from a significant number of symptoms which cannot be paired with a clear diagnosis. These can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained rashes
  • Headaches
  • Muscle Pain
  • Joint pain
  • Neurological Symptoms
  • Respiratory Symptoms
  • Sleep Disturbance
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Cardiovascular symptoms
  • Abnormal weight loss
  • Menstrual disorders

In order to service connect these conditions, they must be chronic (which means existed for 6 months or more), and the veteran must not have a diagnosis for the condition.

Endemic Diseases

Endemic diseases include certain chronic diseases that are common in Southwest Asia. Most of these conditions must have been manifested or diagnoses within one year of service, but not all. These can include:

  • Brucellosis
  • Campylobacter jejuni
  • Coxiella burnetiid (Q fever)
  • Malaria
  • Mycobacterium Tuberculosis (no time limit)
  • Nontyphoid Salmonella
  • Shigella
  • Leishmaniasis (no time limit)
  • West Nile virus

Statistics show that Gulf War veterans claims are some of the most difficult to get approved, and that VA continues to deny as many as ninety percent of all Gulf War claims. If you have been unjustly denied, please consider requesting a case evaluation to determine if an appeal might help you win your claim.