Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) is also known as ‘Desert Storm Diseases’ or simply ‘Gulf War Illness.’ This condition includes symptoms that have been reported by U.S. military veterans, press, and government employees of the first Gulf War (as early as August 1990).
Veterans from every country that made up the Coalition forces have been affected. In the US alone, more than 110,000 cases had been reported by 1999, according to official government sources. It is estimated that it may affect as many as 30% of the men and women who served during the conflict.
But for many years, VA was extremely hesitant to validate what thousands of veterans were going through under one term; so they did what VA is prone to doing: wait.
Until August 2022 when the Honoring Our PACT ACT of 2022 was signed into law by President Biden. Now, VA has conceded several medical conditions to be associated with Gulf War service, primarily due to the toxic smoke plumes from military Burn Pits frequently employed during Gulf Wars. Among them are many conditions that veterans had already been filing claims for and getting denied for years now.
Medical Conditions Now Considered Presumptive to Gulf War Service and Burn Pits
- Brain cancer
- Gastrointestinal cancer of any type
- Head cancer of any type
- Kidney cancer
- Lymphatic cancer of any type
- Lymphoma of any type
- Neck cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Reproductive cancer of any type
- Squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx
- Squamous cell carcinoma of the trachea
- Adenocarcinoma of the trachea
- Salivary gland-type tumors of the trachea
- Adenosquamous carcinoma of the lung
- Large cell carcinoma of the lung
- Salivary gland-type tumors of the lung
- Sarcomatoid carcinoma of the lung
- Typical and atypical carcinoid of the lung
- Respiratory (breathing-related) cancer of any type
- Asthma that was diagnosed after service
- Chronic bronchitis
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Chronic rhinitis
- Chronic sinusitis
- Constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis
- Granulomatous disease
- Interstitial lung disease (ILD)
- Pulmonary fibrosis
Does VA recognize Gulf War Syndrome?
Colloquially known as Gulf War Syndrome by vets stateside, this is a collection of potentially debilitating symptoms that Gulf War veterans may experience. Gulf War Syndrome is not a formal medical diagnosis so it did take VA some years to even consider recognizing that Gulf War veterans were coming home from deployment with medically unexplained illnesses and even rare cancers.
Now, the PACT Act should help thousands of veterans get the rightful compensation they deserve via presumptive benefits.
While the exact cause remains unknown, the same study found that veterans who experience these symptoms also experienced a loss of brain matter. (1) Check below for the most recent update on new evidence for sarin gas linked to Gulf War Illness.
There is even a report relating to military personnel in Kansas developing flu-like symptoms and chemical sensitivities after handling archived documents returned from the Gulf War. (1)
Cause of Gulf War Syndrome Discovered?
New evidence released in the May 2022 Environmental Health Perspectives medical journal may have finally confirmed what many American troops suspected all along – that their exposure to sarin gas in the Middle East was the cause of the gulf war syndrome symptoms they have been experiencing.
This is a huge relief for these veterans, who have long felt like they were being ignored or disbelieved.
Now that the connection between sarin gas and gulf war illness seems clear, the VA should hopefully start to provide the proper treatment and care that these veterans deserve. This is ideally a huge victory not just for Gulf War veterans, but for their families as well – who have also been dealing with the aftermath of Gulf War Syndrome in our returning veterans.
How do you prove Gulf War Syndrome to VA?
Gulf War Veterans, or veterans serving from August 2, 1990 to the present, who meet certain criteria do not need to prove a connection between their military service and illnesses in order to receive VA disability compensation. The VA presumes certain chronic, unexplained symptoms existing for six months or more are related to Gulf War service without regard to cause.
These presumptive illnesses must have appeared during active duty in the South West Asia theater of Military Operations or by December 31, 2021 and be at least 10% debilitating.
Does Gulf War Syndrome exist?
This is a tricky question. Medically-speaking, Gulf War Syndrome is not an official disease, HOWEVER there are real, existing illnesses that Gulf War veterans contracted while overseas that previously could not be medically explained. Think of Gulf War Syndrome as a group, or collection, of dozens of medical conditions seen in Gulf War vets.
Conditions associated with Gulf War Veterans, Desert Storm, OEF, OIF, etc.
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 medical conditions 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. (2)
In the UK, Gulf War veterans from Desert Storm conflict began reporting symptoms and illnesses identical to those reported by service members of the first war, shortly after they returned from duty. The symptoms reported by veterans include but are not limited to:
- Persistent Headaches
- Muscle Aches/Pains
- Neurological Symptoms – e.g. tingling and numbness in limbs
- Cognitive Dysfunction – short-term memory loss, poor concentration, inability to retain information
- Mood and Sleep Disturbances – Depression, Anxiety, Insomnia.
- Dermatological Symptoms – Skin Rashes, Unusual Hair loss.
- Respiratory Symptoms – Persistent Coughing, Bronchitis, Asthma
- Chemical Sensitivities
- Gastrointestinal Symptoms – Diarrhea, Constipation, Nausea,
- Cardiovascular Symptoms
- Menstrual Symptoms
Note: This list does not reflect all symptoms, as they vary widely.
You have probably noticed that these symptoms are remarkably similar to those attributed to chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple chemical sensitivities, and other environmental illnesses. This similarity hasn’t gone unnoticed, which is why many people, including healthcare professionals and researchers, are coming to the conclusion that all these illnesses share some common causes and etiologies. (3)
What was believed to have caused Gulf War Syndrome?
There were many factors present in the Gulf during the war that could have caused condition. It is likely that a combination of these factors together is what led to the illness
- Burn Pit Exposure
- Oil Well Fire Smoke Exposure
- Infectious Diseases from unsafe water
- Biological weapons and Chemical weapons
- Pesticides and Herbicides
- Pyridostigmine bromide
- Chemical Coating
- Dumped Jet Fuel
- Decontamination solution
- Depleted Uranium
What Can Gulf War Veterans Do?
If you are experiencing a chronic multisymptom illness and served in the Gulf War, it’s important to determine whether your experience matches the above criteria. You may be eligible for VA benefits for your condition.
As mentioned above, the VA awards presumptive service connection to veterans who meet certain criteria:
- Qualifying as a Gulf War Veteran
- Experiencing a qualifying disability
Qualifying as a Gulf War Veteran
Veterans who served from August 2, 1990 to the present in one or more of the following locations meet this eligibility requirement:
- Saudi Arabia
- The neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia
- The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.)
- Gulf of Aden
- Gulf of Oman
- Waters of the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea
- The airspace above these locations
Experiencing a Qualifying Disability
According to the VA, veterans applying for benefits for Gulf War illnesses must be experiencing an illness that:
- Started during active duty or before December 31, 2021, and
- Caused you to be ill for at least six months, and
- Qualified you for a disability rating of 10% or more, and
- Was caused by service in the Southwest Asia theater of operations.
Veterans must also have one or more of the following conditions, which we went over in more detail above:
- Functional gastrointestinal disorders
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Other undiagnosed illnesses
You can read more about the qualifications for presumptive benefits on the VA’s website.
Presumptive service connection means that VA automatically grants service connection for your illness, which takes a few steps out of the application process. However, the VA may still deny benefits or award a lower disability rating than is appropriate. Veterans may choose to file an appeal for benefits.
Getting Help With Your Gulf War Syndrome Claim
If the VA denied your claim for benefits, it can be frustrating. However, it’s important to remember that the VA’s process for vetting qualifying veterans is flawed. So, you may be entitled to make an appeal. Reaffirming your qualifications for presumptive benefits and presenting new evidence may lead to the benefits to which you’re entitled.
Veterans who are making an appeal for benefits may benefit from legal help. The attorneys at Hill & Ponton are committed to helping veterans and their family members obtain the benefits they deserve. We know that the VA appeals process can be complicated, so our lawyers are here to guide you every step at the way.
Starting with a free case evaluation, we’ll take the time to learn about your situation and advocate for you. Contact us today to get started.
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