Gulf War Syndrome/Undiagnosed Illness

Many veterans who have served in the Southwest Asia Theater of operations, commonly known as the Persian Gulf, have displayed a combination of medically unexplained chronic symptoms which has been called “Gulf War Syndrome,” although the VA dislikes that terminology.  These symptoms have included fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders, and memory problems.

The VA has granted a presumption of service connection for veterans with Gulf War service who meet certain criteria and display certain chronic, unexplained symptoms for 6 months or more.  Veterans seeking to benefit from this presumption must have served in the Southwest Asia Theater of military operations.  This area includes:

  • Iraq
  • Kuwait
  • Saudi Arabia
  • The neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia
  • Bahrain
  • Qatar
  • The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.)
  • Oman
  • Gulf of Aden
  • Gulf of Oman
  • Waters of the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea
  • The airspace above these locations

Veterans who have served in the Theater at any time during the first Gulf War starting August 2, 1990, through the current war qualify for the presumption.  This includes veterans from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The following “presumptive” illnesses must have appeared during the veteran’s active duty in the theater, or by December 31, 2016 for the veteran to qualify for the presumptive service connection:

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Functional gastrointestinal disorders
  • Undiagnosed illnesses with symptoms that may include: abnormal weight loss, fatigue, cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain, headache, menstrual disorders, neurological and psychological problems, skin conditions, respiratory disorders, and sleep disorders.

The symptoms must be at least 10% disabling for the veteran to qualify for the presumption.

Infectious Diseases

The VA has also determined that some infectious diseases are presumptively related to military service in the Persian Gulf, as well as Afghanistan.

Veterans who have served in the Southwest Asia Theater starting August 2, 1990 through the conflict in Iraq, and in Afghanistan on or after September 19, 2001, are entitled to presumptive service connection for the following infectious diseases:

  • Malaria – must be at least 10% disabling within one year of military separation date or at a time when standard treatises indicate that the incubation period began during qualifying period of military service.
  • Bucellosis – must be at least 10% disabling within one year from date of military separation.
  • Campylobacter Jejuni – must be at least 10% disabling within one year from date of military separation.
  • Coxiella Burnetii (Q Fever) – must be at least 10% disabling within one year of the date of military separation.
  • Mycobacterium Tuberculosis
  • Nontyphoid Salmonella – must be at least 10% disabling within one year of the date of military separation.
  • Shigella – must be at least 10% disabling within one year of the date of military separation.
  • Visceral Leishmaniasis
  • West Nile Virus – must be at least 10% disabling within one year from the date of military separation.

Gulf War Registry Health Exam

Veterans who have served in the Southwest Asia Theater are eligible for a free Gulf War Registry Health Exam provided by the VA.  The purpose of the exam is to alert veterans to possible long-term health problems that may be related to environmental exposures during their service in the Gulf.

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