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VA Changes Gulf War Veterans Need to Know

There have been some changes to the eligibility and claims period for Gulf War Veterans concerning presumptive illnesses. Because of the mystery of the illnesses Gulf War Veterans have experienced, the rules seem to be ever changing, and we expect that to possibly continue into the future. Studies on the illnesses many Gulf War Veterans experienced continue to be conducted to find causes, treatment, and But for now, here are the changes that Veterans should know about when it comes to filing for a Gulf War related presumptive illness.

Change in Eligibility:

Eligibility rules have changed recently as to who qualifies as a Gulf War Veteran. The definition of Southwest Asia theater of Military Operations no longer includes Afghanistan.  The areas included in the definition are:

  • cc-changes-from-the-va-gulf-war-veterans-need-to-know-image-1Iraq;
  • 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; and
  • The airspace above these locations.

While Veterans of service in Afghanistan are still eligible for certain infectious diseases associated with the SW Asia theater, a recent Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims decision has affirmed that Afghanistan is not considered part of the SW Asia theater when considering presumptive illnesses (see CAVC decision). It is noted on the VA website that service in Afghanistan on or after September 19, 2001, is considered qualifying service for disability benefits associated with “certain” presumptive diseases;

  • Brucellosis;
  • Campylobacter jejuni;
  • Coxiella Burnetii (Q Fever);
  • Malaria;
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis;
  • Nontyphoid Salmonella;
  • Shigella;
  • Visceral leishmaniasis; and
  • West Nile virus.

Check with your local VA representative to review your specific issues and ensure that you qualify before you file your claim to ensure you do not experience undue delays in the claim process.

Other eligibility requirements to file for Gulf War associated presumptive illnesses are:

  • Are an eligible Veteran;
  • Served in the SW Asia theater of operations between August 2, 1990, to present;
  • There is no other cause of your disability or illness other than service in the SW Asia theater;
  • Your disability has existed for 6 months or more;
  • Your disability appeared either during service in SW Asia or before December 31, 2021, to a degree that is at least 10% disabling; and
  • The illness is classified as either an undiagnosed illness; diagnosable functional gastrointestinal disorder; diagnosable chronic fatigue syndrome; or diagnosable fibromyalgia.
  • You may also need either medical evidence or nonmedical indications such as verification of lost time from work; changes in appearance and/or behaviors; changes in physical abilities; and/or changes in mental or emotional attitudes or capacities. A C&P Exam may be required to verify medical conditions.

And the GOOD NEWS is:  The Time Period to File Claims has been Extended

cc-changes-from-the-va-gulf-war-veterans-need-to-know-image-2In December 2016; it was announced that the time to file for presumptive illness claims was extended by 5 years until December 31, 2021; extending the original time period from December 31, 2016. This extension was based on studies conducted that showed that many presumptive illnesses may take much longer to manifest than original thought. Another factor is that the Gulf War has not officially ended, so extending the date was imperative for those who are still serving in the theater of operations. Several past extensions have already been passed; possibly more will be passed in the future if our military personnel continue to serve in theater.

What Does this Mean for Veterans?

If a Veteran has any conditions that fall under the category of a qualifying chronic illness, including those undiagnosed illnesses such as fatigue, unexplained rashes, headaches, cognitive issues, muscle and/or joint pain or other multi-symptom illnesses; and certain infectious diseases, your time to file a claim has been extended by another 5 years. This extension means many Veterans who may not have realized they are eligible for benefits can now apply before the new deadline is reached or those who have not started to experience symptoms but may after the original deadline, will now be eligible to apply for benefits.