Understanding VA Benefits for Gulf War Syndrome
The Gulf War of 1990 was a US-led armed campaign by 35 countries against Iraq. The campaign was a response to Iraq’s invasion and annexation of Kuwait. Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield, codenames for two phases of the war, took place between 1990 and 1991. During this time, over 650,000 servicemen and women were serving in the armed forces, some of which have developed Gulf War Syndrome.
For the purposes of VA benefits eligibility, the Gulf War period is still in effect, meaning anyone who was on active duty beginning August 2, 1990, to the present meets the wartime service requirement of the Veterans Pension benefit and can be considered a veteran of the Gulf War.
What is Gulf War Syndrome?
Gulf War Syndrome or Gulf War Illness (GWI) encompasses a myriad of complex illnesses and symptoms affecting service members that served in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield. Symptoms and diseases connected to GWI include (but are not limited to):
- Fibromyalgia and other types of joint pain and discomfort
- Gastrointestinal Disorders
- Infectious Diseases
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Headaches and migraines
- Memory and cognition problems
- Difficulty sleeping
The likely causes of the illnesses and symptoms are wide-ranging, depending on what each service member was exposed to during these military operations. In 2009, the US Army Medical Research and Material Command narrowed down GWI to three leading causes: pyridostigmine bromide pills, pesticides, and chemical nerve agents.
Can I receive benefits and a disability rating for Gulf War Syndrome?
Anyone who is a veteran of the Gulf War and has experienced any of the symptoms listed above may be eligible to receive VA disability compensation for an undiagnosed illness or a medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illness (MUCMI).
The VA rating system will determine the number of benefits you are able to receive. Your disability rating will depend on the severity of the symptoms you are experiencing and how those symptoms affect your ability to function in everyday life. While all service-connected disabilities receive a rating, you must obtain a rating of at least 10 percent to qualify for Gulf War Syndrome benefits.
What do the benefits for Gulf War Syndrome include?
Gulf War veterans are eligible for a wide variety of benefits available to all military veterans. These include pension, education and training, disability compensation, home loans, insurance, health care, vocational rehabilitation and employment, and burial.
How do I apply for these benefits?
If you are a Gulf War veteran with specific and unexplainable symptoms that have lingered for more than six months, these symptoms are presumed to be service-connected to the Gulf War. The signs or illnesses must meet these requirements for you to receive compensation:
- Have appeared while you were on active duty in the Gulf War region, or
- Have appeared by December 31, 2021, at the latest
- Be a minimum of a 10 percent VA disability rating
You can apply online, with an accredited agent or representative of the VA, or go to a regional VA office for assistance.