Fibromyalgia in Gulf War Veterans
If you are a veteran who is suffering from fibromyalgia, there may be VA disability compensation available to you. Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that affects many veterans – about five million adults. Men are less than likely to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, while women are about seven times more likely to be diagnosed with this condition.
Fibromyalgia is distinguished by pain, sleep problems, fatigue, and muscle tenderness. Often times, there is unexplained pain that is widespread throughout the body that can last for over several months. This can cause one to have chronic sleeping issues due to the pain. Fibromyalgia is known to have “trigger points” that can be painful when pressure is applied to that specific area. This can be paired with chronic pain in tendons, soft tissues, and muscles.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Veterans who suffer from fibromyalgia know very well that there are times when they feel well and do not experience pain and there are times when the pain can be debilitating. Here are some common symptoms of fibromyalgia:
- Chronic headaches: Fibromyalgia may be associated with increased excitation within the nervous system, which means it over-responds to stimulation that is not normally painful.
- Pain: The pain is usually widespread throughout the body and can be constant and may last over several months.
- Sleep issues and fatigue: Veterans suffering from fibromyalgia often times wake up tired even after sleeping for a long time. Sleep can be disrupted by pain or other sleep impairments like restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea.
- Stiffness in muscles and joints: The stiffness can last anywhere from 30 minutes to hours. This often hinders movement and range of motion.
Veterans who have served in the Gulf War and have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia do not need to prove service connection to be able to receive disability benefits from the VA. The VA presumes that some health conditions were caused by military service. This means that Gulf War veterans who meet the criteria for a presumptive service connection do not have to prove an association between their illness and military service.
The VA will presume that unexplained symptoms are related to Gulf War service if a veteran has experienced them for six months or more. The presumptive illness must have first appeared during active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations by December 21, 2021, and be at least 10 percent disabling.
This theater of operations includes the following locations, along with the airspace above them:
- Saudi Arabia
- The United Arab Emirates
- The Gulf of Oman
- The Persian Gulf
- The neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia
- The Gulf of Aden
- The Arabian Sea
- The Red Sea
How Fibromyalgia is Diagnosed and Rated
A doctor will give a physical exam to test test thetivity of the veteran’s trigger points to diagnose fibromyalgia. There needs to be a widespread pain that has lasted over three months in the 11 of the 18 points possible. The veteran needs to feel pain above and below the waist and on both sides of his or her body. This evaluation and diagnosis is usually done by a rheumatologist.
If a veteran suffers from widespread pain and tender points—with or without accompanying fatigue, stiffness, headache, sleep disturbance, and other symptoms—he will be rated in the following way:
- 10 percent: This rating is given if the symptoms require continuous medication to control them.
- 20 percent: This rating is given if the symptoms are episodic but present more than one-third of the time, with “exacerbations often precipitated by environmental or emotional stress or overexertion.”
- 40 percent: This rating is given if the symptoms are constant, nearly constant, and are resistant to therapy.