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.”
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, 2016, and be at least 10 percent disabling.
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.
Fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by widespread muscle pain. Other symptoms may
include insomnia, morning stiffness, headache, and memory problems.
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.
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Gulf War Presumptions Gulf War Service
For VA benefit purposes, Gulf War service is active military duty in any of the following areas in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations any time during the first Gulf War starting August 2, 1990 through the current conflict in Iraq.
Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, The neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, The United Arab Emirates, Oman, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Waters of the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea & the airspace above these locations.
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A "condition", in the language of the VA, is any disease, illness or injury that occurs during
active duty military service. To be service connected and eligible for a disability
compensation rating, the condition must be caused or contributed to by an event that
occurred during service. If the condition existed prior to service, it must be shown to
have been aggravated (made worse) by military service.
To achieve a disability compensation rating, the veteran must prove that he or she had
appropriate military service, that an event that caused the claimed condition occurred
and that a medically diagnosed condition that is disabling exists today.
The regulations that govern presumptive conditions only eliminate the requirement to
prove that an event caused the condition. For example, a Vietnam veteran does not have
to prove that agent orange caused the diabetes he has today. It is presumed that he was
exposed to agent orange and also that agent orange is at the root of the diabetes.
While agent orange and the Vietnam veteran are the best known of all presumptive conditions
and ratings, atomic veterans, certain Korean veterans and other veterans may also be
eligible for presumptive ratings of certain conditions.
The regulations are complex. Some veterans who have a Vietnam Service Medal aren't
eligible for presumptive ratings because they didn't set their boots on the soil of the country
of Vietnam. Many Korean veterans don't realize that they may be eligible for service
connections due to exposure to the herbicide agent orange.
If you believe that you may be eligible for any presumptive condition and rating, the best way
to find out is to file a VA disability claim. The process of adjudication is the only sure way to know.