Undiagnosed illnesses and medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illnesses (CMIs) are difficult to identify because symptoms vary from person to person. About one-third of veterans of the 1991 Gulf War are estimated to suffer from a medically unexplained illness.
The prevalence of this condition among Gulf War Veterans has caused the VA to grant a presumptive service connection for veterans who suffer from CMI or undiagnosed illnesses. All veterans who have served in Southwest Asia and suffer from unexplained symptoms should consider applying for disability benefits. All veterans who served in Iraq or other locations in the Southwest Asia Theater of operations and have qualifying symptoms that appeared during active duty or after service but before December 31, 2021 are eligible for the presumption of service connection.
“Undiagnosed & Medically Unexplained Illnesses”
A cluster of medically unexplained symptoms including fatigue, headaches, joint pain, insomnia, indigestion, memory problems, and respiratory disorders is common among Gulf War Veterans. In some cases, the symptoms can be diagnosed as a disease such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia. In other cases, a cluster of symptoms may be present without a definitive diagnosis. The symptoms must have been present for at least six months to qualified for presumptive status, and they must also be at least 10 percent disabling.
An unexplained illness must not be attributable to any known diagnosis based on a physical examination and lab tests. Inconsistent lab results are often a key piece of evidence, but other evidence, such as changes in behavior or appearance, can also be used.
The symptoms commonly encountered in medically unexplained illnesses are fatigue, headache, joint pain, muscle pain, sleep disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, cardiovascular issues, and neurological problems. This is a non-exhaustive list, so veterans with other symptoms should still consider applying for benefits or consulting with a veterans attorney for assistance with their VA disability case.
A diagnosed illness may be eligible for presumptive status, but only if the cause of the illness is not clearly understood. Diseases such as diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis are not eligible because their cause is at least partially understood.
The three conditions the VA gives as examples of medically unexplained illnesses are Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and functional gastrointestinal disorders. However, veterans are not limited to these diseases to receive the presumption of service connection. Any Gulf War Veteran with a cluster of symptoms with no known cause may be eligible.
If you are experiencing unexplained health issues as a result of your Gulf War service, contact Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick for help with your claim or appeal. Call us at 401-331-6300 for a no-cost case evaluation.