Gulf War Syndrome or Gulf War Illness is a CMI (chronic multisymptom illness) that is showing up in more and more veterans that served in the Persian Gulf and the areas around the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea. The problem is that veterans that try to apply for VA Disability Benefits for Gulf War Syndrome are denied in disproportionate numbers compared to other VA disability claims. These vets are suffering from symptoms similar to fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, and other disabilities. That combination is pointing more and more to the fact that Gulf War Syndrome is a real thing, but the VA hasn’t fully accepted it yet.
If you are suffering from symptoms like fibromyalgia, IBS, and chronic fatigue and you spent any time in the middle east during your enlistment, you should talk to a lawyer about your VA disability application or appeal. There is more progress and litigation every year that moves the VA closer to a gulf war syndrome VA disability rating schedule even if they aren’t there yet. You want to get your application in the right way, claiming the right ratings, as early as you can.
- Is Gulf War Syndrome Real?
- When the VA Shuts the Door on Persian Gulf Vets, We Find Another Door
- Gulf War Fibromyalgia Disability Claims
- VA Benefits for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Up to A 30% Rating for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Syndromes and Conditions Caused By Persian Gulf Sand
- Apply for Disability for Gulf War Illness in 2019
- Gulf War Syndrome Statistics that Are Helping All Claims
- Get that Disability Claim Started Today
Is Gulf War Syndrome Real?
It depends on who you talk to. Veterans that served in Kuwait or Iraq in the early 90s that have higher than average rates of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, respiratory problems, and irritable bowel syndrome say yes! The VA and the US government, along with several members of the scientific community that are having trouble re-creating the environment to test the conditions on animals, say no. If the VA says it isn’t a thing, it’s going to be hard to get a disability rating for it.
That is what makes getting a Gulf War Syndrome rating so difficult. A panel formed as an act of Congress did tests in 2008 and said that the “extensive body of scientific research now available consistently indicates that Gulf War illness is real, that it is a result of neurotoxic exposures during Gulf War deployment.” They also stated that not many of the symptoms improve over time. This would make a perfect case for the VA to give it a rating or a presumptive rating, but they haven’t yet. If it’s something that doesn’t improve over time, it might even be a good candidate for a permanent TDIU rating at some point in the future.
As a response to Gulf War Syndrome, the VA has created the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (https://www.va.gov/rac-gwvi/). They are scheduled to meet in October of 2019, so we’ll see if any developments change at that time. You can follow the news on the RACGWVI website (we are!), but it won’t hurt to get us working on your gulf war syndrome compensation claim while you’re waiting.
When the VA Shuts the Door on Persian Gulf Vets, We Find Another Door
While we wait for Washington to figure out a VA Rating for Gulf War Syndrome, Woods and Woods VA disability lawyers can still start your case in other ways. If we can establish a disease of your endocrine system or other previously undiagnosed illnesses were caused by your gulf war service, we might be able to win your claim. We might not be able to get a VA disability rating for Gulf War Syndrome, but the VA has ratings for a variety of skin problems, lung diseases, PTSD and other mental disabilities. Since the average claim takes about 5 years, you want to call us and get started as soon as possible.
We can’t predict the future, but when the VA finally decided that blue-water Vietnam veterans were entitled to benefits for Agent Orange, many of them received a healthy amount of back-pay because they already had claimed other disabilities. That could work out the same way once Washington figures out what caused Gulf War Syndrome.
Gulf War Fibromyalgia Disability Claims
The VA does have a rating for Fibromyalgia, which is one of the sub-illnesses on the Gulf War Syndrome symptoms list. Depending on the level of your diagnosis, you can get either a 10%, 20%, or 40% rating for fibromyalgia. According to 38 CFR § 4.71a – 5025:
- If you require continuous medication for control, you get a 10% rating
- If it comes and goes but is really bad more than one-third of the time, you qualify for a 20% rating
- Service members with constant symptoms that don’t respond to therapy can get a 40% rating
These ratings are for all veterans, not just Persian Gulf War veterans. If you can service-connect these symptoms through health care records and your C-file, you will be on a good start to winning your disability claim.
VA Benefits for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Many men and women that served around the Persian Gulf have come back with symptoms similar to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. One of the difficult things about diagnosing CFS is that, like Fibromyalgia, you diagnose it by figuring out all of the things that it isn’t. By ruling out PTSD and other disorders, a veteran may be diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Be sure to be clear with your VA doctor or private family doctor about your symptoms. Being tired during the day could be because of sleep apnea, insomnia from PTSD, restless leg syndrome, or drug and alcohol abuse, which all carry their own VA ratings. When you have your C&P Exam, make sure you don’t blow off any of these symptoms, since its the combination of them that gives you the best ratings.
Up to A 30% Rating for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
If you go back and forth from having diarrhea to being constipated with abdominal pain in between, you are showing symptoms for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. If you can service-connect your IBS with your time in the service and your symptoms are constant, you can get up to a 30% rating. These symptoms are also similar to those of people that have Gulf War Syndrome, so this diagnosis can help your case with the VA also. The cause is still unclear, but evidence of it on your medical record might be required if they ever move forward on a GWS rating.
In its report, the IOM committee defines CMI as the presence of a spectrum of chronic symptoms in at least two of six categories—fatigue, mood and cognition, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, respiratory, and neurologic—experienced for at least six months. The symptoms may overlap with, but are not fully captured by, such known syndromes as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome. Because they do not have a disease with a signature etiology, some veterans of the 1991 Gulf War say they believe the legitimacy of their illness is often called into question.Gulf War Health Report Volume 9 http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/Reports/2013/Gulf-War-and-HealthTreatment-for-Chronic-Multisymptom-Illness/Report-Brief012313.aspx
Syndromes and Conditions Caused By Persian Gulf Sand
One study revealed a number of sicknesses that were caused just by the fine sand of the Persian Gulf countries. Since it’s not like sand on the beaches in the US, it has different effects (especially when blown by helicopters) on American service members. Rashes on the skin and varieties of pneumonia have been reported by Gulf War vets that the VA is still learning about.
Additional infections to wounds and mycoplasmas have also found to be increasing in soldiers that served in the Persian Gulf. While there aren’t VA ratings for these conditions, and they often only last for a year or so, these additional struggles should be noted on your VA application. Facing PTSD from experiences in Irag or Afghanistan and adjusting to life back in the states can get a lot worse if you’re in the hospital dealing with infections and skin rashes. Paint the full picture of your current state of life in your VA disability claim. Additional ailments like these can sometimes warrant a SMC even if they don’t increase your rating percentage.
“I’m extremely disappointed, these are the same issues the National Gulf War Resource Center has been trying to bring to the VA’s attention for three years now. I’m left scratching my head on what we’ve accomplished. We’ve had 26 years to get this right, and we’re not even close. These vets are struggling.”Melissa Emrey-Arras, author of the Government Accountability Office report on Gulf War Illness, GAO-17-511 quoted on https://www.stripes.com/news/pacific/report-va-claims-for-gulf-war-illness-denied-80-percent-of-the-time-1.477436
Apply for Disability for Gulf War Illness in 2019
If you are still in the presumptive period after your active duty or were diagnosed during active duty in the Southwest Asia theater during the Persian Gulf War, you should apply for disability right away. (Like call us right now at (866)232-5777 to get your free review started.) 38 CFR 1117 is basically a ‘strike while the iron is hot’ clause that gives some extra provisions for Gulf War Syndrome disability benefits. You can apply for any of these up until the end of 2021.
The symptoms of an undiagnosed illness or CMI (Chronic multisymptom illness) include a big list. If you have any of these and you are recently home from duty in Iraq, Afghanistan, or any of the areas around the Persian Gulf, you might fall under the presumptive illnesses list.
- Unexplained rashes or other dermatological signs or symptoms.
- Muscle pain.
- Joint pain.
- Neurological signs and symptoms.
- Neuropsychological signs or symptoms.
- Signs or symptoms involving the upper or lower respiratory system.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Gastrointestinal signs or symptoms.
- Cardiovascular signs or symptoms.
- Abnormal weight loss.
- Menstrual disorders.
The key to the presumptive conditions list is time. If you are too far out from active duty when you apply, you’ll have to prove service connection in another way.
Gulf War Syndrome Statistics that Are Helping All Claims
- 175,000 to 250,000 of the 700,000 total veterans of the Persian Gulf War in 1991 suffer from Chronic Multisymptom Illness (CMI) — Gulf War and Health Vol 9: Treatment for Chronic Multisymptom Illness
- In 2015 there were 11,400 claims for Gulf War Illness
- The approval rate for Gulf War illness in 2015 was 30% less than approvals of all other claims
- Gulf War Disease claims have twice as many medical issues per claim as other disability claims and take 4 months longer to complete. — top 3 stats from GAO-17-511
You can download the complete GAO report summary from here https://www.gao.gov/assets/690/685562.pdf
Get that Disability Claim Started Today
You can see why it’s important to get your application started so that you can establish an early effective date. Just like it took the government 80 years to figure out “shell-shocked” and “combat neurosis” was really PTSD, it’s going to take a while to figure out Gulf War Syndrome. Once they do, you want to show that you were already pursuing your claim before the gold rush. With any VA disability application, you want to be as clear as possible about all of your service-connected disabilities. You want to show how they affect your daily physical, mental, and work-life experience. As we put more pressure on the VA for Gulf War vets, we might all get a victory like we did with the blue-water Navy and Agent Orange.
There isn’t one for GWS (or Gulf War Illness) but there are presumptive ratings for related disabilities that Persian Gulf War vets can apply for.
Unexplained rashes or other dermatological signs or symptoms.
Neurological signs and symptoms.
Neuropsychological signs or symptoms.
Signs or symptoms involving the upper or lower respiratory system.
Gastrointestinal signs or symptoms.
Cardiovascular signs or symptoms.
Abnormal weight loss.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Fibromyalgia just to name a few.
GWS is a risk for anyone that served in Southwest Asia. Veterans on ships and even in the airspace have reported symptoms, so boots on the ground is not a requirement for your claim.
Your best bet is to file a claim for all of the surrounding symptoms AND Gulf War syndrome altogether. Since the VA isn’t recognizing gulf War Syndrome as a ratable disability yet, you have to work around the system. Talk to a Woods and Woods lawyer to work out your individual details.
Medically Unexplained Chronic Multisymptom Illnesses (MUCMI) It is a collection of symptoms that don’t have a good connection to each other or a clear cause.
A Chronic Multisymptom Illness is similar to a MUCMI in that it has several unconnected aspects. What makes a CMI different is that none of those symptoms seem to show signs of progression or improvement.