If you served in the military after 1990, there’s a good chance you served somewhere in the Middle East. The Gulf Wars involved about 750,000 troops and stretched from August 1990 all the way up to the present. As a Gulf War veteran, you could be eligible for disability compensation from the VA.
But who are the Gulf War veterans, and how do you know if you qualify as one? Keep reading to learn more about this series of conflicts and discover whether your military service falls under the Gulf War umbrella.
In this article about Gulf War veterans
Who Are Gulf War veterans?
Although the official Gulf War conflict lasted only 7 months, the repercussions of that war continue today. Even post-9/11 veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation New Dawn are considered to have served in the Gulf War.
The VA’s definition of a Gulf War veteran includes anyone who served on active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of operations, Afghanistan, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, or Jordan.
The Southwest Asia theater of operations covers a wide swath of territory including:
- Saudi Arabia
- The neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia
- Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.)
- The Gulf of Aden and the Gulf of Oman
- The waters of the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea
- The airspace above these locations
What was the Gulf War?
The Gulf War, also known as the Persian Gulf War, began on August 2, 1990, and lasted until February 28, 1991. The war was against Iraq and involved troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, France, Kuwait, and others. More than 55,000 people died in the war, most of them Iraqis. Another 75,000 troops or more were wounded.
The Gulf War began in response to Iraq invading Kuwait during disputes over oil production and pricing. The coalition of armies opposing Iraq spent five months building up defenses in Saudi Arabia and bringing in troops. The combat phase began on January 17, 1991, and lasted just over a month.
Operation Desert Shield
The first stage of the Gulf War was called Operation Desert Shield, and its purpose was defensive. There was significant concern that, after Iraq invaded Kuwait, it might continue to invade Saudi Arabia. The proximity of Kuwait to Saudi Arabia’s oil fields could give Saddam Hussein a potential opportunity to take control of the majority of the world’s oil supply.
The military buildup in Saudi Arabia started on August 7, 1990, and reached 543,000 troops. The United States immediately dispatched the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and USS Independence to the Persian Gulf and sent the USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin to the region as well. They also sent forty-eight F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, two Air National Guard units from South Carolina and New York.
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Desert Storm was the code name for the coalition’s active combat campaign against Iraq. It began on January 17, 1991, and lasted forty-two days, ending on February 28, 1991. The attack was primarily an air-based offensive, during which the United States dropped nearly 1,000 tons of bombs on Iraq.
The goal of Operation Desert Storm was to destroy Iraqi infrastructure to weaken the military and collapse their defenses. The initial campaign was considered a success, and on February 28, 1991, President Bush declared a ceasefire. However, the colossal damage to Iraqi property led to a simmering anger that eventually fueled the second Gulf War.
Operation Iraqi Freedom
After the attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States launched a new offensive in the Middle East. While this campaign was first focused on al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, military attention quickly turned to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. President Bush publicly implied that Iraq may have weapons of mass destruction, specifically nuclear weapons.
The invasion into Iraq began on March 20, 2003, when 248,000 American soldiers moved from Kuwait to Iraq. This campaign was declared an attack on terrorism in Iraq with the end goal of setting up a representative democracy for Iraqi citizens. Although the initial invasion ended on April 9, 2003, when Baghdad fell, Operation Iraqi Freedom continued until September 1, 2010.
Operation New Dawn
On February 17, 2010, the United States announced that, as of September 1, it would replace Operation Iraqi Freedom with Operation New Dawn. Beginning at the end of August, the U.S. began withdrawing military troops in the area, cutting back on its combat role in Iraq. On August 19, 2010, the last U.S. combat brigades departed Iraq and moved back into Kuwait.
The military continued to pull troops out of Iraq until the end of 2011. On October 21, 2011, President Obama announced that all U.S. troops would leave Iraq by the end of that year. In November, the U.S. Senate voted to officially bring the war to an end, and on December 18, 2011, the last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq.
Burn pit disorders in Gulf War veterans
Many veterans of the Gulf Wars were exposed to burn pits, which were sites on military bases that were used to dispose of waste. These pits included everything from metal, chemicals, and even human waste. Unsurprisingly, several medical conditions have been associated with exposure to these burn pits.
A long list of potential burn pit-connected disorders covers everything from asthma, sleep apnea, heart conditions, and even several types of cancer.
In 2021, the VA began recognizing presumptive conditions related to burn pits in specific locations, and the list has since expanded to 33 cancers and conditions.
Burn pits are connected to other conditions such as breathing difficulties, headaches, vomiting, unexplained weight loss, skin lesions, and ulcers. Veterans who can prove a service connection may be able to receive VA compensation for any of these conditions.
Gulf War Syndrome
One of the most common conditions among Gulf War veterans is Gulf War Syndrome. This is an umbrella term that covers a variety of unexplained conditions that occur among Gulf War veterans.
Some symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome can include fatigue, skin rashes, and diarrhea. You may also experience chronic pain in your muscular or skeletal systems. Some veterans even suffer cognitive problems such as dementia, PTSD, and other mental illnesses.
Many of these symptoms fall outside the realm of traditional medical diagnosis and present a challenge for both the veteran and their doctor. These so-called MUCMI conditions–medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illnesses–are conditions in which you have symptoms but they can’t be linked to any specific cause.
The following conditions are so strongly tied to Gulf War service that if you receive a diagnosis for them, the VA will presume that they were the result of your military service:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome,
- Functional gastrointestinal disorders like IBS, dyspepsia, and functional abdominal pain syndrome
- Other undiagnosed illnesses, including but not limited to cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain, and headaches.
PTSD in Gulf War veterans
Post-traumatic stress disorder is one of the most common disorders among veterans of any war, but especially in the Gulf Wars. This disorder is the result of experiencing trauma. It can be debilitating. A person suffering from PTSD may try to avoid anything that reminds them of the traumatic event and can experience extreme anxiety when reminded of it.
PTSD can cause panic attacks, insomnia, mood swings, depression, and more. A person can relive the traumatic event they experienced in the form of nightmares or debilitating flashbacks. They may even hallucinate or become unable to distinguish between their waking nightmares and reality.
Gulf War Registry health exam
If you served in the Gulf War, you may want to consider getting a Gulf War Registry health exam. These exams are designed to check veterans for symptoms of conditions they may have contracted as a result of their military service. While this exam cannot replace your compensation and pension exam, it can help you identify any conditions you may be living with.
During your exam, VA-approved doctors will conduct a health exam and a physical, as well as any needed laboratory tests. They will ask you about your previous medical history and about the conditions you served under. If new symptoms show up after your exam, you can always go back for further evaluation.
Once you have your diagnosis, you must be able to point to a specific incident or a set of conditions in your military service that could have caused your condition. In most of the conditions we’ve discussed, your service in the Gulf War will qualify as your service connection. Finally, unless you have a presumptive condition, you must have a medical nexus connecting your condition and your military service.
How to qualify for VA disability
To qualify for VA disability compensation, you must meet three basic criteria. First, you must have an official diagnosis of your condition from a VA-approved medical professional. In most cases, your family doctor or any other traditionally licensed medical professional will meet VA requirements.
How Woods and Woods can help
If you have any of the conditions we’ve discussed, or if you served in the Gulf War, you could be entitled to compensation from the VA.
We’ve helped thousands of veterans with their VA disability applications and appeals. Call us today to discuss your VA disability appeal or your first application. The call is free and we won’t charge you a single fee until we win your case.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Even though Desert Storm only lasted 42 days, the VA considers any service member who served from Aug. 2, 1990, to the present day in one of the following locations to be a Persian Gulf War veteran: Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), Oman, Afghanistan, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the waters of the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea, or the airspace above these locations.
Yes, it is. Mainly because we go to all of the trouble for you, and if we don’t win, you don’t pay. You have nothing to lose. Even a small check for PTSD every month could help fund a hobby to help you relax and adjust to civilian life. Many of the vets who call Woods and Woods to find out that more of their medical conditions are connected to their service than they originally thought. Give us a free call at (866)232-5777 and we’ll see if you have a case.