Presumptive service connection has been established by the VA for both medically unexplained illnesses and certain infectious diseases for Gulf War Veterans. Gulf War Veterans that currently have any symptoms or health issues should consider applying for VA benefits, and may not have to prove service connection for qualifying conditions.
General Requirements for Gulf War Veterans
All of the presumptive diseases require certain qualifications to be met. First, the Veterans must have served on active duty in the Southwest Asia Theater of operations between August 2, 1990 and the present. For infectious diseases only, service in Afghanistan on or after September 19, 2001 will also qualify the Veterans for presumptive service connection.
The Veterans must also typically have a current disability that is at least 10 percent disabling in order to receive VA disability compensation.
Qualifications for Medically Unexplained Illnesses
Medically unexplained illnesses involve a cluster of symptoms with no known cause. They can be undiagnosed or diagnosed without a known cause. Common symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, digestive problems, respiratory problems, and memory loss, but symptoms vary from person to person. This is why the VA does not use the term “Gulf War Syndrome” to classify these illnesses, because there is no defined set of symptoms.
Symptoms must persist for at least six months, and must have appeared during active duty or after service but before December 31, 2021. Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and functional gastrointestinal disorders all qualify as medically unexplained illnesses, but this list is not exhaustive. Any Gulf War Veteran with a cluster of symptoms without a known cause may be eligible.
Qualifications for Infectious Diseases
Several infectious diseases will receive presumptive service connections for Gulf War Veterans and veterans who served in Afghanistan on or after September 19, 2001. Generally, the Veteran must have contracted the disease within a specified time frame (usually within one year of discharge), and it must currently be at least 10 percent disabling.
The following infectious diseases qualify for presumptive service connection:
• Campylobacter Jejuni
• Coxiella Burnetii (Q Fever)
• Mycobacterium Tuberculosis
• Nontyphoid Salmonella
• Visceral Leishmaniasis
• West Nile Virus
The VA may establish more presumptive diseases for Gulf War Veterans in the future based on continuing research. For example, the health effects of exposure to open burn pits are currently being studied, but VA has not established any presumptive conditions yet.
If you served during the Gulf War and are experiencing health issues as a result of your service, contact Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick for help with your claim or appeal. Our veterans law practitioners have experience with every aspect of the appeals process. Call us at 401-331-6300 for a no-cost case evaluation.