Gulf War Syndrome VA Disability
The Gulf War was fought in 1990-1991. America led 35 nations against Iraq after they invaded and annexed Kuwait. This war is more commonly known as Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.
Soldiers who fought in this war have suffered from debilitating symptoms, including depression, nightmares, anxiety, headaches, PTSD, concentration difficulties, memory problems, respiratory conditions, flashbacks, fatigue, joint pain, nerve conditions and even skin rashes.
This collection of seemingly unrelated symptoms is referred to medically as Gulf War Syndrome. The Veteran’s Administration (VA) has a rating system for disabilities to “score” your disability on a scale of 0-100 to determine benefit qualification and payout. VA does not have a single rating for Gulf War syndrome VA disability. Instead, they look at each of your symptoms individually and rate them each. The rating is a formality; every veteran with Gulf War Syndrome is awarded disability.
The reason VA looks at symptoms individually is because symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome do vary greatly from soldier to soldier. Here is an example of how the rating is done. If a soldier has headaches, anxiety and memory issues, VA will find the best match mental disorder that fits and rate that. The rating for PTSD could be chosen since these three symptoms are part of PTSD. If the soldier also suffers depression, he or she would not be rated separately for depression. Instead, depression would be considered in the rating for PTSD. If the soldier also suffered another symptom unrelated to PTSD, such as a skin rash, the skin condition would be rated separately.
The VA offers a free health exam called the Gulf War registry for soldiers to determine possible long-term health problems they may have as a result of serving in the Gulf War. The great part is that veterans do not have to be enrolled in a VA health plan to take the exam. There is also a separate exam to look at issues incurred from airborne hazards and open burn pits, and it is open to all veterans regardless of VA health plan enrollment.
Regarding Gulf War syndrome VA disability, your disability must be service-related but you do not necessarily have to have been in active combat at the time the injuries were incurred. You are also not eligible if you had a dishonorable discharge.
The VA acknowledges that the unexplained illnesses that are bundled under Gulf War Syndrome, as well as infectious diseases acquired during the Gulf War, classify and qualify as Gulf War syndrome VA disability.
All veterans are eligible to receive disability compensation for service-related health issues acquired while in service or worsened during service. For Gulf War veterans in particular, there is an additional method of compensation called Presumptive Service Connection. Under this guideline, the multi-symptom diseases experienced by many Gulf War veterans are presumed to be caused by service in the Gulf War. Chemical warfare was used during that war as were new vaccines and the effects of both of them are not known.
Certainly, medical research is ongoing, but until there is definitive proof, veterans are presumed to have illnesses caused directly because of the Gulf War. The presumptive period was from the Gulf War to the end of 2016; the VA may extend this as new information and research is determined. You simply have to show a disability rating of 10 percent or higher and your disability has to be a chronic condition. “Chronic” is defined as:
o an illness that has remained undiagnosed
o an illness with multiple symptoms and no medical explanation
o a chronic illness lasting six months or more
o infectious diseases, such as
1. Mycobacterium tuberculosis
2. Visceral leishmaniasis
3. Nontyphoid salmonella
6. West Nile Virus
7. Campylobacter jejuni
8. Coxiella burnetii (Q fever)
Gulf War veterans qualify under these conditions of service and active duty in Southwest Asia:
o Saudi Arabia
o United Arab Emirates
o the neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia
o the Gulf of Aden
o the Gulf of Oman
o the Persian Gulf
o the Red Sea
If the VA uncovers any medical evidence that your illness or conditions could have been caused outside of your active duty, the VA will deny benefits. For example, drug and alcohol abuse are common disqualifiers.
If you cannot work because of your Gulf War Syndrome VA disability, you can additionally apply for Social Security (SSA) disability benefits. Contrary to popular belief, as a soldier, you can collect both VA and SSA simultaneous benefits.
VA also offers survivor benefits for Gulf War syndrome VA disability to any living spouse or dependent children or parents of Gulf War Veterans who have died as a result of illnesses related to service in the Gulf War.