Gulf War Veteran Disability Benefits
We’ll help you get VA benefits for covered & undiagnosed illnesses from the Gulf War
The VA has recognized a variety of medical problems unique among veterans of the Gulf War, sometimes referred to as “Gulf War Syndrome,” and awards disability compensation to affected veterans. These benefits are provided to Gulf War vets who meet certain conditions of service and medical condition, which must be documented in claims.
The legalese of VA regulations and benefit claim requirements can make it difficult for some disabled veterans to develop benefit claims that meet with VA approval. Many deserving veterans are met with delays and other problems inherent in the bloated and overworked VA bureaucracy and do not receive the benefits they are entitled to.
Are You a Gulf War Veteran for Purposes of VA Disability Benefits?
Veterans of the Southwest Asia theater of military operations, not including Afghanistan, may obtain benefits for certain undiagnosed illnesses, certain diagnosable chronic disability patterns, and certain presumptive diseases. This includes veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2010) and Operation New Dawn (2010-2011) in the following locations:
- Saudi Arabia
- The neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia
- The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.)
- Gulf of Aden
- Gulf of Oman
- Waters of the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea
- The airspace above these locations
Veterans who served in Afghanistan after September 19, 2001, may be entitled to disability compensation for certain presumptive diseases.
Gulf War Syndrome VA Disability Rating
You may have heard of the term “Gulf War Syndrome” if you have inquired about any of a variety of medical symptoms that are common among Gulf War veterans. Though the causes of Gulf War Syndrome are not yet explained, the VA does recognize the legitimacy of veterans’ complaints.
A Gulf War veteran of the post-9/11 era may qualify for disability benefits if he or she suffers from such unexplained, chronic symptoms as:
- Joint pain
- Respiratory disorders
- Memory problems
The VA dislikes the term “Gulf War Syndrome” because of the numerous symptoms it describes. Instead, the VA prefers “chronic multisymptom illness” or “undiagnosed illnesses,” and provides benefits to Gulf War vets disabled by medical conditions that defy diagnosis. There are several “diagnosable chronic disability patterns” found among Gulf War veterans who qualify for disability benefits, as well.
In general, a Gulf War vet is likely to qualify for veterans disability benefits if:
- There is no cause for the disability or illness other than service in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations
- The disability has existed for six months or more, and
- If the disability or illness did not appear during active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations, it has since its appearance been at least 10% disabling according to VA disability ratings.
As of 2017, the VA has a deadline of December 31, 2021, by which symptoms not present during service must appear.
Covered disabilities include:
- Undiagnosed illnesses including, but not limited to:
- Abnormal weight loss
- Cardiovascular disease
- Muscle and joint pain
- Menstrual disorders
- Neurological and psychological problems
- Skin conditions
- Respiratory disorders
- Sleep disturbance
- Diagnosable functional gastrointestinal disorders characterized by chronic or recurrent symptoms that are unexplained, which may include but are not limited to:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Functional dyspepsia
- Functional vomiting
- Functional constipation
- Functional bloating
- Functional abdominal pain syndrome
- Functional dysphagia
- Diagnosable Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, an unexplained, severe, and persistent fatigue that is not helped by rest. Vets may also suffer flu-like symptoms, such as sore throat, swollen lymph glands, low-grade fever, headache, muscle pain, and poor sleep.
- Diagnosable Fibromyalgia, characterized by unexplained pain in muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues that persist for longer than three months. Chronic pain is accompanied by “trigger points” — tender points on the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms, and/or legs — that hurt when pressure is applied. Other symptoms may include fatigue, sleep disturbances, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic headache, impaired memory and concentration, and morning muscle stiffness.
- Certain presumptive diseases, which will be considered to have been incurred in or aggravated by service even if there is no evidence of such disease during active service:
- Campylobacter jejuni
- Coxiella burnetii (Q fever)
- Mycobacterium tuberculosis
- Nontyphoid Salmonella
- Visceral leishmaniasis
- West Nile Virus
One or more diseases must become at least 10% disabling within a year of separation from service, except for malaria, which must manifest within a recognized incubation period that began during service; or mycobacterium tuberculosis or visceral leishmaniasis, which have no time limits.
How to File a Claim for Gulf War Syndrome
It is proper for the VA to recognize that Gulf War veterans are suffering from medical conditions that cannot always be precisely defined. The VA allows Gulf War vets to submit nonmedical evidence of as part of their benefits claim in certain situations.
A claim for VA disability benefits available to Gulf War veterans must include military records of service in the Southwest Asia theater or Afghanistan, as well as available medical records of treatment and/or diagnosis of the disability and/or illness.
For undiagnosed illness claims, the evidence may be medical evidence or nonmedical indications that can be independently observed or verified through an independent source, such as:
- Lost time from work
- Changes in appearance
- Changes in physical abilities
- Changes in mental or emotional attitudes
“Independently verified” means it must be possible for the VA to obtain verification of the nonmedical indicators from an independent source.
Additionally, if a claim does not include evidence of medical treatment for a pattern of symptoms that constitute a disability, and the only significant evidence is a layman’s statement describing the disabling symptoms, the VA will request that the vet undergo a medical examination.
Undiagnosed illnesses and even diagnosable conditions that are not medically explainable, like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, often present a problem for the veteran seeking benefits as well as the VA claims evaluator. Our advocates can help you at any point in the process – whether it’s an original benefits claim, reopened or appealed claim, new claim, or secondary disability claim — to ensure your claim has the best evidence available to support your claim.
In addition to helping you obtain service records and existing medical records, we can help you obtain updated medical opinions or exams if needed. Our veterans’ disability advocates know the VA and its requirements for approving disability claims. We have medical community contacts who understand illnesses common to Gulf War veterans and can assist with satisfying the VA’s requirements for an approvable claim, as well.
We’ll Navigate the VA Gulf War Benefits Bureaucracy for You
Seeking veterans’ disability benefits for qualifying Gulf War veterans can be a complex and time-consuming process, and can easily lead to unnecessary delays in obtaining needed benefits. You do not have to go it alone. The experienced and caring assistance from our advocates takes the burden from your shoulders and gets benefits to you as FAST as possible.
We can help you prepare a complete and accurate claim for benefits promised by Gulf War veterans. We can refer you to medical specialists who understand the unique medical problems suffered by Gulf War veterans and the documentation required by the VA system to substantiate disability.