Does Gulf War Syndrome Qualify for VA Disability Benefits?

Gulf War Syndrome

Gulf War Syndrome is now an accepted medical condition. For this reason, disabled vets with Gulf War Syndrome can apply for monthly VA disability benefits.



What Is Gulf War Syndrome?

Gulf War Syndrome is a condition that affects about 36% of Gulf War veterans. It may include several medically unexplained chronic illnesses or symptoms, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Indigestion
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Breathing problems
  • Memory problems

The Department of Veterans Affairs refers to Gulf War Syndrome as “chronic multi-symptom illness” and “undiagnosed illnesses.” The VA prefers not to call it “Gulf War Syndrome,” since symptoms can vary so widely.

Experts believe exposure to chemicals and other airborne hazards may cause Gulf War Syndrome. Gulf War vets whose symptoms last 6 months or longer may qualify for VA “presumptive disability” status.

Who Can File A VA Disability Claim for Gulf War Syndrome?

Gulf War veterans that served in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations may have eligible GWS claims. However, you cannot file a Gulf War Syndrome claim if you:

  • Are dishonorably discharged
  • Were discharged from active military duty before August 2, 1990
  • Have a VA disability rating that’s below 10%

Eligible veterans have until December 31, 2021 to claim VA benefits for Gulf War Syndrome. Not sure if your health problems may qualify? The VA’s eligibility guidelines state that:

  • No other cause must exist for your disability or illness other than Gulf War military service.
  • Your symptoms must last 6 months or longer to qualify.
  • You must submit medical evidence showing regular treatments for your condition, or the VA may require a medical exam.

In addition, Gulf War vets with infectious diseases (like Lou Gehrig’s Disease/ALS) may also qualify.

Undiagnosed Illnesses & Symptoms That May Qualify for VA Disability

Even without an official diagnosis from your doctor, you can still file a Gulf War Syndrome claim. Some Gulf War Syndrome symptoms that may qualify without a doctor’s diagnosis include:

  • Abnormal weight loss
  • Fatigue (this may indicate undiagnosed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or fibromyalgia)
  • Heart disease
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Menstrual disorders
  • Neurological and psychological problems
  • Skin conditions
  • Breathing issues
  • Sleep problems

Gulf War vets with chronic stomach issues may also qualify. The VA defines “functional gastrointestinal disorders” as unexplained digestion problems. Examples may include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain syndrome
  • Trouble swallowing (dysphagia)

Gulf War vets with symptoms like these don’t need to prove a service connection. Instead, the VA presumes any GWS illness with a 10% or higher disability rating automatically qualifies.

You May Qualify for Legal Assistance

The VA denies most Gulf War Syndrome disability claims, according to a 2017 Government Accountability Office report. Why? The GAO report shows up to 90% of VA medical examiners aren’t trained to diagnose Gulf War Syndrome. That’s because the VA made this specific type of exam training optional.

From 2010 to 2015, the VA approved just 17% of GWS claims (18,000 in 102,000). Besides denying GWS claims 3x more often, the GAO report also says those vets waited four months longer for decisions.

If this happens to you or to someone you love, help is available. You can talk to a VA-accredited lawyer for free and get confidential answers to your questions. Every consultation we give is 100% free and comes with no obligation to proceed afterwards. The most recent VBA report shows that 9 in 10 disabled vets with lawyers prevail against the VA.

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