Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses

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Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses: Medically Unexplained Chronic Multisymptom Illnesses

 

A prominent condition affecting Gulf War Veterans is a cluster of medically unexplained chronic symptoms that can include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders, and memory problems.

VA does not use the term “Gulf War Syndrome” when referring to “medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illnesses” reported by Gulf War Veterans. Symptoms vary widely and therefore, do not meet the definition of a syndrome. A syndrome is a group of symptoms that usually occur together and characterize a certain disease or abnormal condition. That is why VA uses the term “medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illnesses” instead of “Gulf War Syndrome.”

Military Service Connection

Gulf War Veterans who meet the criteria below do not need to prove a connection between their military service and medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illnesses in order to receive VA disability compensation.

VA presumes certain chronic, unexplained symptoms existing for 6 months or more are related to Gulf War service without regard to cause. These “presumptive” illnesses must have appeared during active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations or by December 31, 2011, and be at least 10 percent disabling. VA is seeking to extend the date to December 31, 2018.  These illnesses include:

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition of long-term and severe fatigue that is not relieved by rest and is not directly caused by other conditions. Find out more about chronic fatigue syndrome*, treatment, and the latest medical research at Medline Plus.
  • Fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by widespread muscle pain. Other symptoms may include insomnia, morning stiffness, headache, and memory problems. Find out more about fibromyalgia*, treatment, and the latest medical research at Medline Plus.
  • Functional gastrointestinal disorders, a group of conditions marked by chronic or recurrent symptoms related to any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Functional condition refers to an abnormal function of an organ, without a structural alteration in the tissues. Examples include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), functional dyspepsia, and functional abdominal pain syndrome.
  • Undiagnosed illnesses with symptoms that may include but are not limited to: abnormal weight loss, fatigue, cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain, headache, menstrual disorders, neurological and psychological problems, skin conditions, respiratory disorders, and sleep disturbances.

VA’s final rule* specifying that functional gastrointestinal disorders are covered as presumptive illnesses took effect on August 15, 2011.

Infectious Diseases

VA presumes certain infectious diseases also are related to military service in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan.

VA Benefits for Illnesses Related to Gulf War Service

Eligible Veterans may receive VA disability compensation and health care for illnesses related to their military service.

VA offers eligible Veterans a free Gulf War Registry health exam for possible long-term health problems related to Gulf War service.

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Surviving spouses, dependent children and dependent parents of Gulf War Veterans who died as the result of illnesses related to Gulf War service may be eligible for survivors’ benefits.

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