Veterans Disability Info Blog

Gulf War Syndrome: Debunking Myths and Pursuing Benefits

If you or a loved one served in the Gulf War and have experienced adverse health effects, you could be entitled to substantial VA disability benefits. Veterans who have developed chronic disabilities as a result of an injury, illness, or other event during active duty may qualify for benefits. A cluster of symptoms or signs that emerge and exist for over 6 months may also qualify you for a disability, even if they have been previously undiagnosed. 

There are many myths surrounding the Gulf War in terms of conditions that veterans who served there might have developed, and also many mysteries. In this article, we’ll explore some common myths concerning “Gulf War Syndrome” (GWS) and explain how you can access your related VA disability benefits from a veterans’ disability lawyer. 

Myth 1: Gulf War Veterans are No Sicker than the Civilian Population as a Whole

Veterans in general, particularly those who have engaged in active combat, are more likely than other populations to encounter a wide variety of injuries and illnesses, both physical and psychological. For a veteran to qualify for VA disability benefits for active service in the Gulf War or any other qualifying military service, it is necessary that you meet the basic requirements. These include:

  • You served in a recognized military location within a qualifying time period, 
  • You were not dishonorably discharged 
  • You have a service-connected illness or condition 
  • You meet the relevant timing requirements for when your healthcare provider diagnosed you with the condition 

It is essential to recognize that for a chronic condition to count, it must have been documented for 6 or more months. This means you must submit evidence of 6 months or more of the illnesses or other conditions for which you seek coverage. When it comes to the variety of concurrent symptoms that comprise GWS, it is important that your application contains this essential information. 

Myth 2: GWS was Invented by the Press

Any worries that the Press may have invented GWSare easily laid to rest by the fact that the VA has recognized “Gulf War Illnesses” and provided pathways for impacted veterans to collect on the benefits that they deserve. 

Myth 3: GWS Cannot Be Defined as a Legitimate Medical Syndrome

While you might have heard about the experience of some veterans in collecting benefits related to their undiagnosed illnesses from Operation Desert Storm, this does not mean that the conditions are not legitimate. It is not necessarily GWS that you are diagnosed with, but rather the bundle of symptoms that have developed due to exposure to chemicals during qualifying active time periods or other injuries or illnesses. 

The VA recognizes chronic illness as a disability and can link your related symptoms to other qualifying conditions and, in turn, provide you with an accurate VA disability rating. If you have applied for VA disability and received a denial a veterans’ disability lawyer can help, as we’ll discuss further below. 

Myth 4: GWS is Not Associated with Operation ‘Desert Storm’

Over the course of August 2, 1990 through July 31, 1991, some 650,000 U.S. Service members served in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. When it comes to VA disability benefits and related eligibility, the VA notes that the Gulf War period applies and that persons who served during this period are considered “Gulf War veterans.” 

Gulf War Syndrome is, in fact, associated with Operation Desert Storm, and if you served in qualifying locations during the specified time period, your associated conditions may be covered. To determine whether or not your conditions qualify, it can be helpful to speak with a veterans’ disability lawyer. We can help when you have submitted a claim and have been denied or have already been approved for VA disability but would like to add additional symptoms to your VA disability rating. 

When you qualify for coverage under the VA for your disability, Gulf War veterans can be entitled to a broad variety of benefits, including:

  • Disability compensation 
  • Pension
  • Home loans
  • Insurance
  • Vocational rehabilitation and employment
  • Burial
  • Health care
  • Education and training

To collect upon the extensive benefits that may be available to you, it is essential to begin the process by filing your application. For your initial VA disability application, you are able to seek out the assistance of the VA or VA-accredited representatives. It is important to know that attorneys and non-accredited parties cannot charge you fees for helping you file your VA disability benefits. Watch out for television commercials and other advertisements offering to provide you with “coaching” or “education” on collecting your VA disability benefits. These companies may be trying to take advantage of you and take a portion of the VA disability benefits that you, and only you, are entitled to. 

When you have submitted an initial claim and been approved for a back pain issue, but you have been experiencing fatigue and various other symptoms for six months or more, it is helpful to get them checked out. Consulting with medical professionals helps determine your condition and whether or not it is connected to your active service. 

Veterans Must Meet Certain Requirements to Collect on Undiagnosed Illnesses and/or Medically Unexplained Chronic Multisymptom Illnesses 

If you believe that GWS or other unexplained illnesses stemming from your active service could be causing illnesses, a veterans’ disability lawyer can help. First and foremost, your disability must be classified as chronic, which means that you have had it for a minimum of 6 months. You’ll need medical records to verify this, which can be received from VA treatment or your private physician. 

In addition to your illness being chronic, you must meet the following additional requirements: 

  • The undiagnosed illness you are suffering from must have emerged during active service in the Southwest Asia Theater of Operation
  • The Southwest Asia Theater of Operation includes Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Oman, the Gulf of Aden, the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oma, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, as well as the air space over these locations
  • This active service must have been during the Gulf War period of August 2, 1990 through July 31, 1991, or additionally to a degree of 10 percent or more at any time from August 2, 1990 through December 2011

A variety of symptoms may be associated with service in these locations during the qualifying time period. The symptoms of undiagnosed illness and unexplained chronic multisymptom illnesses include the following:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Fatigue
  • Signs or symptoms involving the skin
  • Skin disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Neuropsychological signs or symptoms
  • Neurological signs or symptoms
  • Respiratory symptoms
  • Menstrual disorders
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Cardiovascular symptoms
  • Abnormal weight loss

Presumptive Conditions are Also Covered

For some conditions, the connection to your service and your eligibility to receive related VA benefits is presumed for the following conditions: 

A presumptive condition means that if you have a condition from the list above and were on qualifying active service during the dates and in the locations listed above, you do not have to prove the service connection of your injury with evidence. The connection is presumed, and you receive the VA disability benefits you are entitled to automatically. 

Presumptive conditions require you to prove your eligibility and also that you have a qualifying medical condition. Exposure to certain chemicals resulted in the development of recognized symptoms, and simply being present in an environment where these chemicals were present is sufficient to qualify for coverage. The way in which your claim is presented to the VA and how well it adheres to the requirements will determine whether or not you are approved. There are two different types of presumptive condition classifications related to the Gulf War that you could qualify for. 

Conditions Diagnosed During Active Duty 

The VA considers undiagnosed conditions that you have not been diagnosed with presumptive if you served in a recognized location, and when a health care provider had diagnosed you while you were on active duty, or at any time after separation, and you have been ill for at least 6 months with: 

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Functional gastrointestinal disorders
  • Medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illness
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Other undiagnosed conditions, including muscle and joint pain, headaches, and cardiovascular signs and symptoms

The following conditions must have been diagnosed within 1 year of separation for them to be considered presumptively connected to the Gulf War. The following infectious diseases are presumptive when you served in a qualifying location and a health care provider diagnosed you with them within 1 year of separation: 

  • Malaria 
  • Coxiella burnetii 
  • Campylobacter jejuni
  • Brucellosis
  • West Nile virus
  • Shigella
  • Nontyphid salmonella

Conditions that are presumed to be connected to Gulf War service at qualifying locations during the specified times, regardless of when they were diagnosed after separation from active military service, include: 

  • Visceral leishmaniasis
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Various burn pit and toxic exposure presumptive conditions have also been added to coverage by the VA through the PACT Act. We explore these conditions elsewhere on our site, and our experienced veterans’ benefits lawyers are capable of helping you add burn pit and other toxic exposure illnesses to your VA disability rating. 

To get started on collecting what you deserve, contact a veterans’ benefits lawyer from our firm now. Working with a VA disability lawyer on your appeal or claim has expansive benefits and supports the best outcome for your application. 

Connect with a Veterans’ DisabilityLawyer for Help On Your Appeal 

If you have filed a claim with the VA that has been denied or you have developed additional conditions to add to your existing claim, a veterans’disabilitylawyer from our firm can help. While an attorney cannot help with your initial VA disability application, we are able to assist with an appeal if it has been denied. Our experienced veterans’ disability attorneys are able to help you gather the medical and other evidence you need to support the best possible outcome in your appeal. 

It is important to understand that all conditions related to your service, including those that emerge because of other service-connected disabilities, are covered by VA disability. To receive the full coverage you deserve, you must file an application with sufficient evidence for the VA to approve and fully recognize your condition. 
For appeals, working with a VA disability lawyer takes the stress and process out of your life. Know that you’ll pay nothing out-of-pocket. Connect with us for your free initial consultation to learn how we can help.

We are Here to Help

If you are having trouble obtaining benefits, contact us online or at 888.878.9350 to discuss your case.