Gulf War Syndrome

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After the 1991 Gulf War, many veterans returned from the war suffering from multiple symptoms which were not readily diagnosed . Congress, having dealt with the problems of veterans from the Vietnam War, and knowing medical science often lags behind the practical realities of returning veterans - PTSD for example, enacted laws which gave the Gulf War veterans disability benefits for the undiagnosed medical conditions.

Requirements for an Award

The requirements for a disability benefit award are threefold. They are:

1. Did the veteran serve in the Southwest Asia theatre during the Persian Gulf War?

Southwest Asia is defined as Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, the Gulf of Adan, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea and the airspace above any of these geographical areas.

Turkey and other surrounding areas are not included.

The veteran must have been within any of these areas after August 2, 1990. Any service up and through the present counts as military service triggering the potential entitlement to benefits. The end date for the Persian Gulf War has not been set.

2. Does the veteran suffer from a "qualifying chronic disability"?

A "qualifying chronic disability" is any of the following or combination thereof:

(i) An undiagnosed illness.

(ii)A medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illness (such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome) that is defined by a cluster of signs or symptoms.

(iii)Any diagnosis the Secretary determines warrants a presumption of service-connection.

Chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome are not the only medically unexplained multisymptom illnesses by which a veteran may receive disability compensation benefits. Congress has left it open for the Secretary to designate other diseases. However, at present they are the only disease processes that are defined by a cluster of signs or symptoms. Symptoms or signs of a condition on which the Secretary may recognize another disease or medical condition are listed below under "General Symptoms".

To date the Secretary has not made any diagnosed disease process or medical condition presumptively service-connected.

3. Did the qualifying chronic disability manifest itself to a degree of 10 percent disabling within the time period, if any, established by the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs?

The VA has not established any manifestation period for the symptoms of the undiagnosed illness. Accordingly, any manifestation of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome at anytime may qualify the veteran for an award of disability benefits in so far as the disability is at least rated at 10 percent.

General Symptoms

- Chronic Fatigue

- Signs and symptoms involving skin (including skin rashes and unusual hair loss)

- Headache

- Muscle pain

- Neurological signs or symptoms (nervous system disorders which could manifest themselves in numbness in one's arm, for instance)

- Neuropsychological signs or symptoms (including memory loss)

- Signs or symptoms involving upper or lower respiratory system

- Sleep disturbances

- Gastrointestinal signs or symptoms (including recurrent diarrhea and constipation)

- Cardiovascular signs or symptoms

- Menstrual disorders

Unique Factors Involved

In a typical disability claim, the veteran is pressed to show a specific medical diagnosis by a physician or other competent person he or she is suffering from a specific disease or medical condition. However, in Gulf War Syndrome, the veteran is placed in the position of having to have evidence from a competent medical practitioner that he or she is suffering from an undiagnosed medical condition. To further complicate the process, medical opinions and diagnosis considerations are not yet uniformly established throughout the medical community for the multisymptom chronic illnesses.