Getting Veterans (VA) Disability for “Gulf War Syndrome”
Since 1990, Gulf War veterans have demonstrated a higher-than-average rate of developing certain symptoms not explained by any specific medical condition. These symptoms include:
- Sustained and debilitating fatigue
- Headaches and migraines
- Joint pain and discomfort
- Difficulty sleeping
- Problems with memory and cognition
- Digestive ailments
If you are a Gulf War veteran and later experienced any of the above symptoms, you might be eligible to receive veterans (VA) disability compensation for a medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illness (MUCMI) or an undiagnosed illness, commonly referred to as “Gulf War Syndrome.”
When and Where Was the Persian Gulf War?
The Persian Gulf War (PGW) in Southwest Asia began in August 1990 and continues to present day for VA “period of war” purposes. The PGW period of war currently extends to December 31, 2021.
PGW Environmental Hazards
Among the environmental hazards during PGW were: smoke from over 750 Kuwaiti oil well fires; pesticides/insecticide use, including personal flea collars; indigenous infectious diseases, such as leishmaniasis; solvents and fuels; ingestion of pyridostigmine bromide tablets on a daily basis as a nerve gas antidote; the combined effect of multiple vaccines; and inhalation of ultra-fine-grain sand particles. Veterans began reporting chronic debilitating medical symptoms that typically included some combination of chronic headaches, cognitive difficulties, widespread bodily pain, unexplained fatigue, chronic diarrhea, respiratory problems, and other abnormalities.
VA’s Persian Gulf War Regulations
After the 1991 Gulf War, Congress enacted statutory directives at § 38 U.S.C. 1117, which addressed a range of disabilities in veterans who served in Southwest Asia. VA then promulgated its regulations at 38 C.F.R. § 3.3.17. The law provides for presumptive service connection for a “qualifying chronic disability.” A qualifying chronic disability means a chronic disability resulting from “an undiagnosed illness” or a MUCMI defined by a cluster of signs or symptoms.
This category covers symptoms not associated with a diagnosed condition but that the VA has identified as prevalent in Gulf War veterans. These symptoms include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unexplained fatigue
- Cardiovascular ailments
- Muscle or joint pain
- Menstrual disorders
- Psychological or neurological problems
- Respiratory disturbances
- Difficulty sleeping
- Skin conditions
Medically Unexplained Chronic Multisymptom Illnesses (MUCMI)
MUCMIs are defined by a cluster of signs and symptoms without conclusive pathophysiology or etiology. Although MUCMIs may be diagnosed, if the diagnosis is partially understood in terms of etiology and pathophysiology, then it will not be considered medically unexplained. Examples of MUCMIs include:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Functional gastrointestinal disorders
There are also numerous “infectious diseases” endemic to Southwest Asia covered under these laws including: (1) Brucellosis; (2) Campylobacter jejuni; (3) Coxiella burnetii (Q fever); (4) Malaria; (5) Mycobacterium tuberculosis; (6) Non-typhoid Salmonella; (7) Shigella; (8) Visceral leishmaniosis; and (9) West Nile virus.
Eligible Service Under VA’s PGW Regulation
Potential entitlement to service connection for an undiagnosed illness or to a medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illness does not currently exist for Post-9/11 veterans who served only in Afghanistan. This is because VA does not currently consider Afghanistan part of the Southwest Asia Theater of military operations for these two qualifying chronic disabilities. However, veterans with service in Afghanistan do qualify for service connection for the infectious diseases listed above.
For the purposes of service connection for an undiagnosed illness or a MUCMI, VA considers eligible any veteran who served in the Southwest Asia Theater of operations from August 2, 1990 to the present. This includes service in the following locations:
- Saudi Arabia
- The neutral zone between Saudi Arabia and Iraq
- The United Arab Emirates
- Gulfs of Aden and Oman
- Water of the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea
- Airspace above these locations
Veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2010) and Operation New Dawn (2010-2011) are eligible as well.
VA Disability Benefit Amounts for Gulf War Syndrome
VA determines disability ratings depending on the severity of your symptoms and how those symptoms affect your ability to function in daily life.
VA uses a rating system to determine the amount of your benefit. All service-connected disabilities receive a rating, which are then combined into the veteran’s combined rating. A combined rating ranges between 0 and 100 percent, in increments of 10 percent. However, to be eligible for benefits for “Gulf War Syndrome,” you must receive a 10 percent disability rating or higher.
A rating of 30 percent or higher qualifies you for additional benefits for additional benefits for any dependent living in your home (e.g., spouse, children, dependent parents).
Why You Should Hire A Lawyer To Fight For VA Disability for Gulf War Syndrome
Gulf War-related claims are notoriously complex for their myriad nuances. Despite the existence of the Gulf War-related illness governing regulations being in place for about 20 years, VA has yet to streamline a process to correctly apply these rules to veterans’ claims. Thus, VA does not have a perfect, cut-and-dry process for granting or denying benefits. There is a lot of subjectivity involved, and if you lack experience in the process, you risk a denial despite having a valid, service-related condition.
The attorneys at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD have dedicated their careers to VA disability cases, and through helping veterans like yourself win the benefits they deserve, have become intimately familiar with the appeals process. We do all the hard work so you can focus on your health and family.
Let our VA disability claims advocates put their experience and knowledge to work for you. We offer free consultations to determine if we are able to assist you. Contact us today at 401-331-6300.
- Effects of Chronic Pain on Veterans’ Mental Health
- Understanding Medically Unexplained Chronic Multisymptom Illnesses (MUCMI)
- “Rates of Chronic Medical Conditions in 1991 Gulf War Veterans Compared to the General Population” (2019)
- Veterans (VA) Disability Benefits for Chronic Pain
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