Gulf War Syndrome VA: Symptoms, Gulf War Veterans Benefits, and Gulf War Claim Deadline Extension

Category: Veterans Disability Law

Article by Daniel J. Tuley

Gulf War Syndrome VA: Symptoms, Gulf War Veterans Benefits, and Gulf War Claim Deadline Extension

Gulf War Syndrome VA: Symptoms, Gulf War Veterans Benefits, and Gulf War Claim Deadline Extension

The Persian Gulf War has been an ongoing series of U.S. military operations in Southwest Asia to achieve a variety of goals. Spanning over three decades, the veterans of this conflict have suffered a multitude of disabilities as a result of their service. Similar to other wars, disabled veterans are entitled to compensation for service-connected disabilities that impede their ability to function. For Gulf War veterans, beyond typical disabilities, there is an additional compensable condition termed “Gulf War Syndrome.”

What is Gulf War Syndrome?

The term “Gulf War Syndrome,” also called “Persian Gulf Syndrome,” is used to describe a variety of unexplained medical symptoms that a veteran experiences as a result of serving in the Gulf War. More often than the average citizen, veterans who served in this war experience certain symptoms that aren’t tied to specific medical conditions or disabilities. In instances where there is no clear diagnosis, but the veteran has clearly experienced a decline in their quality of life as a result of Gulf War service, Veterans Affairs (VA) will hear the case and potentially offer compensation based on the severity of symptoms.

Gulf War Syndrome Symptoms

Gulf War Syndrome is not any specific ailment, instead, it can involve a multitude of different conditions. Some of the symptoms that fall under the Gulf War Syndrome umbrella term include the following:

  • Sleep troubles
  • Digestive problems
  • Issues with memory and cognitive functioning
  • Migraines and/or headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Continuous fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Psychological problems
  • Skin conditions
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cardiovascular problems

The category of “Gulf War Syndrome” includes undiagnosed illnesses and medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illnesses (MUCMI). Both of these issues are recognized and compensated by VA.

Proving Gulf War Syndrome

Due to the lack of an official diagnosis, it can be very difficult for veterans to prove to VA that they have Gulf War Syndrome. However, there are certain rules in place that allow Gulf War veterans to still receive proper compensation.

C&P Exam for Gulf War Syndrome

A Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam for Gulf War Syndrome is administered by a VA-approved medical professional. At this examination, the practitioner will ask questions, review evidence, and perform tests to determine the severity of your condition(s). After the C&P exam, the practitioner will issue an opinion that includes what they believe the rating should be and whether or not they believe the conditions are service-connected. VA will typically order a C&P exam to get a better idea of the veteran’s situation.

Presumptive Service Connection for Gulf War Veterans

To make this connection easier for veterans, VA has also established something called the VA Presumptive List for Service-Connected Disabilities. The VA Presumptive List includes a variety of conditions that do not require service connection for compensation because it is already assumed. When a large number of veterans all begin to experience the same symptoms at the same time after serving in identical or similar situations, VA recognizes that their disabilities are likely a result of military service.

In the case of the Gulf War, some of the presumptive conditions include the following illnesses:

  • Fibromyalgia — Widespread muscle pain, sometimes accompanied by headaches, memory issues, and insomnia
  • Myalgic encephalomyelitis — Also known as “chronic fatigue syndrome,” this illness results in long-term severe tiredness or inability to perform daily tasks at a normal level
  • Functional gastrointestinal disorders — These conditions are recognized as any chronic issues directly related to the gastrointestinal tract; these include irritable bowel syndrome, functional dyspepsia, and other symptoms caused by the irregular function of an organ without structural tissue damage
  • Undiagnosed illnesses — Any unexplained or vague symptom that doesn’t associate with a specific condition; typically included under “Gulf War Syndrome”

VA’s presumption for Gulf War claims makes it easier for veterans who served in specific locations between specific times to receive a service connection status for their undiagnosed or unexplained illnesses.

Gulf War Syndrome VA Rating

VA uses a rating system to gauge the severity of your symptoms and assign compensation accordingly. All disabilities receive individual ratings depending on how much they hinder your ability to live a regular life and seek/hold gainful employment. Ratings are given in increments of 10%, starting at zero and ranging to 100. When you have more than one disability, each of those scores will be added up to reach a combined disability rating. Your combined disability rating must be at least 10% to qualify for Gulf War Syndrome.

Gulf War Syndrome itself can be rated at any number depending on how debilitating the combination of symptoms becomes to a veteran. It is also important to note that combined ratings of 30% or above warrant additional benefits if you have dependents in your household.

VA Claim for Gulf War Syndrome

Filing a claim for Gulf War Syndrome is similar to filing for any other approved VA disability. While you may not have to prove service connection if your issues are on the VA Presumptive List, you will still need to prove that you experience difficulties as a result of your disability.

You will also still be required to collect medical records, service records, and statements to reinforce the fact that your life has been made more difficult as a result of the disability you sustained during the Gulf War.

Gulf War Claims Deadline Extension

Prior to September 2021, Gulf War Veterans could only file claims for service up until December 31, 2021. This was the final deadline to submit Gulf War claims. On September 14, 2021, the deadline was extended to December 31, 2026. This means that claims for Gulf War Syndrome or any Gulf War-related illnesses must be filed before the end of 2026.

The two main reasons VA has given for implementing the extension include the following:

  • There has yet to be an established end date for the Persian Gulf War; veterans are still currently serving and sustaining disabilities.
  • There is no concrete evidence on how long it takes Gulf War service disabilities to surface in veterans; if a veteran doesn’t experience a service-connected condition until years down the road, they are still entitled to compensation for it.

Gulf War claims reform is similar to Vietnam claim legislation. In the case of Agent Orange, many veterans didn’t feel the effects of the exposure until decades later. VA is trying to ensure that a similar situation does not occur from the Gulf War.

Who Qualifies for Gulf War Claims?

Only those who received some sort of disability or illness from serving in the Persian Gulf War are eligible to file Gulf War claims—but what does this mean?

VA defines the Persian Gulf War as service in any military operations that took place in Southwest Asia beginning on August 2, 1990. Veterans who served in the following locations are considered by VA to qualify for Gulf War service:

  • Iraq
  • Kuwait
  • Qatar
  • Oman
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Neutral zones between Iraq and Saudi Arabia
  • Bahrain
  • The Gulf of Aden
  • The Gulf of Oman
  • The United Arab Emirates
  • Waters of the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea
  • Any airspace above these locations

Other veterans eligible for Gulf War benefits are those who served in the following operations:

  • Operation New Dawn
  • Operation Iraqi Freedom
  • Operation Desert Storm
  • Operation Desert Shield
  • Certain eligible veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom

Veterans who served in these locations or operations between August 2, 1990, and the present are eligible to file Gulf War claims for VA disability compensation.

What Does This Extension Mean for Persian Gulf War Veterans?

This deadline extension means that even veterans who are still currently serving will be able to receive compensation for any disabilities they sustain during their military service. It also means that any veterans who develop disabilities at a later date will be able to file for compensation after the fact. Gulf War veterans can focus more on ensuring they put together a full claim with the correct evidence because they no longer have to rush to meet a deadline.

Tuley Law Office

Although the Presumptive List makes it easier to prove service connection, the VA disability claim process can still be difficult. Especially for veterans who may be dealing with Gulf War Syndrome symptoms, the additional task of filing a claim can feel like more trouble than it’s worth.

The experienced legal team at Tuley Law Office is here to answer questions you may have regarding benefits for Gulf War syndrome symptoms. Don’t hesitate to file for VA disability benefits—the longer you wait, the less you may receive. Reach out to Tuley Law Office today by filling out our online contact form or calling us at (812) 625-2053.

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