Gulf War Illness

Although the Gulf War may seem relatively short-lived in comparison to other wars, the medical ramifications for many veterans who served during that time period has had an extremely long lasting impact. The first Persian Gulf War was fought heavily in Iraq and Kuwait from January to February 1991. 

What Happened, Medically Speaking?

A large percentage of veterans who were active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations came back home with a multitude of symptoms that were confusing to medical professionals and the veterans themselves. Some of the most common symptoms included skin rashes, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, stomach issues such as diarrhea, musculoskeletal pain, and cognitive problems.

There was a huge struggle for many years to get VA benefits for these conditions. Much of the confusion came from the fact that many medical professionals couldn’t agree on the cause of these symptoms, and would misdiagnose or diagnose as totally different issues from one visit to the next.

Over time it became clear that Persian Gulf War veterans displayed a higher than average likelihood to experience these symptoms. These veterans were exposed to a huge amount of environment pollutants and respiratory toxins, such insecticides, pesticides, chemical agents, oil well fires, and some experimental vaccinations. 

What does the VA consider to be Gulf War locations/countries?

A veteran who served on active military, naval, or air service at any of the following locations anytime between August 2, 1990 and December 31, 2021, can qualify as a “Persian Gulf Veteran”:

  • Bahrain
  • Gulf of Aden
  • Gulf of Oman
  • Iraq
  • Kuwait
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.)
  • Waters of Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the Arabian Sea
  • Neutral zone between Iraq / Saudi Arabia
  • Airspace above any of these locations

Persian Gulf War Presumption

The VA created a presumption for veterans under 38 CFR § 3.317 to make it easier for them to obtain service-connection for the conditions they developed that were most likely related to the war. The presumption is for medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illness, undiagnosed or unexplained illnesses, and certain infectious diseases. 

Chronic Multisymptom Illness

As medically the symptoms could not be attributed to any one single diagnosis or disease, the term “medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illness (MUCMI)” was given as name to this condition. Some examples of this condition are chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and functional gastrointestinal disorders. 

Unexplained Illnesses

These are symptoms not associated with one diagnosed illness, but common in Gulf War veterans:

  • Skin conditions (oftentimes rashes)
  • Respiratory problems
  • Unexplainable loss of weight 
  • Unexplainable fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Neurological problems
  • Menstrual disorders
  • Cardiovascular ailments 
  • Sleeping problems

Which Veterans Qualify for This Presumption?

  • Again, a veteran must first of all have been on active duty during the time period of August 2, 1990 and December 31, 2021 in the locations that are bulleted above. 
  • The veteran’s symptoms have to be classified as chronic, meaning they have lasted for 6 months or longer.
  • There must be at least a 10% disabling factor from the symptoms

VA Disability claims for Gulf War Service

Truthfully, the VA has shown a high historical propensity for errors when evaluating Gulf War claims. Some important things to remember when submitting claims:

  1. It’s crucial for the veteran to show they served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations during the time period of August 2, 1990-December 31, 2021. 
  2. Establish your conditions and symptoms meeting the requirements for the presumptions, as described above.

 

 

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