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Gulf War Syndrome Disability Benefits

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Gulf War Syndrome is a prominent condition affecting up to 30 percent of Gulf War Veterans even decades later. The cluster of medically unexplained chronic symptoms can include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders, and cognitive difficulties like memory problems.

The majority of patients experience a post-exertional malaise, meaning symptoms worsen after physical or mental exertion.

The VA presumes certain chronic, unexplained symptoms existing for 6 months or more are related to Gulf War service. Disabled veterans can file disability claims after seeking medical attention and have their documents in order.

For assistance in filing claims or appeals, and to get the best chance for benefit success, speak to a VA Disability Claims attorney. Up to 80 percent of veterans who apply for Gulf War Syndrome benefits are denied compensation.

Joe Lyon is a VA claims reviewing military toxic exposure cases and related veteran disability claims.

What Caused Gulf War Syndrome?

There are only theories at the moment, because researchers have not identified what caused hundreds of thousands of veteran illnesses. One known incident involving potential exposure to chemical weapons was the destruction of Iraqi weapons at Khamisiyah in March 1991, which included ammunition depots that contained sarin nerve gas). Up to 100,000 soldiers may have been exposed to very low levels of the chemical agent.

The VA calls Gulf War Syndrome a group of “unexplained” and “presumptive” illnesses. However, the regional environmental hazards may have included:

    • Toxic smoke from over 750 Kuwaiti oil well fires
    • Pesticides and insecticides
    • Indigenous infectious diseases (leishmaniasis)
    • Toxic Solvents
    • Ingestion of pyridostigmine bromide as a nerve gas antidote
    • A combined effect of multiple vaccines and prophylaxis
    • Exposure to Chemical Weapons
    • Psychological factors, including PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)

Gulf War Syndrome Symptoms

Gulf War illnesses have two distinct forms, depending on which part of the brain has been affected. As a result, not all Gulf War veterans have the same symptoms and disabilities. Researchers note several subgroups of Gulf War Syndrome patients.

Among one group, there are significant cognitive disabilities that affect a veteran’s thinking, memory, and judgment, that looks eerily similar to other neurodegenerative disorders and Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. Brain stem atrophy has been seen in some test subjects. This helps explain why some veterans suffer from central nervous system dysfunction.

Common Gulf War Syndrome Symptoms include:

    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Nausea
    • Skin rashes
    • Headaches
    • Memory Loss
    • Chronic Fatigue
    • Severe joint pain
    • Muscle pain
    • Cardiovascular disease
    • Sleep Disorders

Am I Eligible for Disability Benefits?

According to a report released by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), about a third of Gulf War veterans suffer from chronic multi-symptom illness, with a series of symptoms that cannot be medically explained.

The “presumptive” illnesses that the VA includes in their benefit list must have appeared during active military duty in the Gulf Region, or by December 31, 2021, and must be at least 10 percent disabling.

Veterans who meet these criteria do not need to prove a connection between their prior military service and illnesses to qualify VA disability compensation. The illnesses that the VA offers disability to include:

    • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: long-term and severe fatigue that cannot relieved by rest and is not directly caused by other existing conditions.
    • Fibromyalgia: widespread muscle pain, and possibly insomnia, stiffness, headache, and memory issues.
    • Functional gastrointestinal disorders: chronic or recurrent gastrointestinal tract issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), functional dyspepsia, and functional abdominal pain syndrome.

VA Benefits for Gulf War Veterans

War Veterans, dependents and survivors may be eligible for VA benefits. Over 650,000 U.S. military personnel were involved in the Gulf War, Desert Shield and Desert Storm veterans operations, from Aug. 2, 1990, to July 31, 1991. Anyone who served on active duty from August 1990 to present is considered a Gulf veteran.

Those individuals eligible for extensive VA benefits following toxic exposure and other injuries including the following:

    • Burn Pit Exposure
    • PTSD—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
    • Sleep Disorders
    • TDIU—Veteran Unemployability
    • Mental Disability

Is there a Treatment for Gulf War Syndrome?

There is no specific treatment for Gulf War Illness, though research suggests that an approach called cognitive-behavioral therapy may help patients manage their symptoms.

On behalf of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the IOM conducted a study and concluded that for veterans who are experiencing symptoms related to CMI, an integrated, long-term management and treatment approach should be implemented.

Gulf War Illness Disability Benefits

From 2010 to 2015, the VA approved 17 percent of claims for health care and disability compensation for veterans suffering from Gulf War Illness. VA medical staff may be lacking in training in diagnosing veterans properly. Many VA medical examiners do not know how to conduct medical exams, and the VA has made the training optional.

photo of attorney Joe Lyon
A Voice for Those who have suffered

Why are these cases important?

VA cases support those who sacrificed to serve our country. Many veterans experience severe implications due to their military experience, creating additional costs in quality of life beyond the years of military service. Veterans deserve quality support and legal counsel to receive compensation for the additional, and sometimes lifelong, suffering their duty caused. 

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VA Disability FAQ

What VA Disability benefits are available?

The following disability compensation benefits are available to Veterans:

Disability Compensation – a monthly monetary benefit paid to Veterans who are disabled by an injury or disease that was incurred in or aggravated by active military service. 

Automobile Allowance – financial assistance provided to help eligible severely disabled Servicemembers and Veterans purchase or adapt an automobile to accommodate their disabilities

Clothing Allowance – annual stipend(s) provided to disabled Veterans who have unique clothing needs as a result of a service-connected disability or injury.

Specially Adapted Housing/ Special Home Adaptation Grants – provides monetary benefits to adapt or obtain suitable housing for eligible severely disabled Veterans

Service-Disabled Veterans’ Insurance (S-DVI) – provides life insurance coverage to Veterans who have been given a VA rating for a new service-connected disability in the last two years. Totally disabled Veterans are eligible for free insurance premiums and have the opportunity to purchase additional insurance  

Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI) – provides mortgage life insurance protection to disabled Veterans who have been approved for a VA Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant

Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) – provides educational and training services to Veterans with service-connected illnesses and injuries to prepare for, obtain, and maintain suitable employment

Education Assistance – provides education benefits to Veterans to assist with obtaining a degree or with pursuing other eligible education and training

Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) – provides assistance to survivors or dependents of Veterans to obtain a degree


Am I eligible for VA Disability Benefits?

Disability compensation is a monthly benefit paid to Veterans who are at least 10% disabled because of injuries or diseases that were incurred in or aggravated during active duty or active duty for training. A disability can apply
to physical conditions, such as a chronic knee
condition, as well as a mental health conditions,
such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
If you were on inactive duty for training, the
disability must have resulted from injury, heart
attack, or stroke. Your discharge from service must
have been under other than dishonorable conditions.
Compensation varies depending on the degree of
your disability. 

If you have dependents, an additional allowance
may be added if your combined disability is rated
30% or greater. Your compensation may be offset
if you receive military retirement pay, disability
severance pay, or separation incentive payments.

What are presumptive veteran disabilities?

VA presumes that some disabilities are due to
military service. You may be eligible to receive
service-connected disability benefits if you have
a qualifying disability associated with certain
conditions of service, such as:

» Former Prisoners of War
» Vietnam Veterans exposed to Agent Orange
» Gulf War Veterans with undiagnosed illnesses
and medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illnesses.

What is a “service-connected” disability?

A service-connected disability is related to an injury or disease that developed during or was aggravated while on active duty or active duty for training. VA also pays disability compensation for disabilities resulting from injury, heart attack, or stroke that occurred during
inactive duty training.

What compensation can i expect?

VA disability benefits depend on your level of disability and stats of dependents. You can calculate what you think you may deserve at the VA Web site:

Are VA Disability Benefits for life?

You can be eligible for VA benefits for as long as your service-related injury or disability is assigned to a compensable rating by the VA.