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Gulf War Presumptions


Many veterans who served in Southwest Asia experience health issues related to their service in the region. Fortunately, the U.S. government recognizes the collective experiences and health issues of this specific group of veterans and addresses them in two statutes: 38 USC § 1117 and 38 USC § 1118.


Gulf War vets are those who served in "Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, and the airspace above these locations." (38 CFR § 3.317)


Gulf War Syndrome is unlike most other VA disabilities in that many of the illnesses and diseases that manifest from it are unexplained or undiagnosed. The unexplained or undiagnosed characterizations actually support claims to receive compensation under the presumptions. In other words, the actual lack of a diagnosis or explanation qualifies the disability for compensation with Gulf War syndrome. Additionally, VA recently extended the deadline for the Gulf War presumptive period to December 31, 2026, meaning veterans have several more years to claim the onset of Gulf War conditions. Under 38 USC § 1117(g), the "signs and symptoms that may be a manifestation of an undiagnosed illness or a chronic multisymptom illness include the following:

(1) Fatigue.

(2) Unexplained rashes or other dermatological signs or symptoms.

(3) Headache.

(4) Muscle pain.

(5) Joint pain.

(6) Neurological signs and symptoms.

(7) Neuropsychological signs or symptoms.

(8) Signs or symptoms involving the upper or lower respiratory system.

(9) Sleep disturbances.

(10) Gastrointestinal signs or symptoms.

(11) Cardiovascular signs or symptoms.

(12) Abnormal weight loss.

(13) Menstrual disorders.

Additionally, there are presumptive infectious diseases provided in 38 CFR § 3.317:

(i) Brucellosis.

(ii) Campylobacter jejuni.

(iii) Coxiella burnetii (Q fever).

(iv) Malaria.

(v) Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

(vi) Nontyphoid Salmonella.

(vii) Shigella.

(viii) Visceral leishmaniasis.

(ix) West Nile virus.

These presumptions and extended period to claim them mean that Persian Gulf veterans should find success easier with their disability claims for these particular conditions since a service connection is not required due to the presumption. The vet needs to (1) prove service in the Persian Gulf after August 2, 1990, and (2) provide evidence of a chronic, current disability from the list provided in the statute. Unfortunately, this slam-dunk is often not the case. “'Astronomical' is how Ronald Brown described the denial rate. He’s a Gulf War veteran and consultant with the Vietnam Veterans of America, one of the authors of the analysis that found VA rejected 90% of undiagnosed disability claims from Gulf War veterans." (Goldstein, David. Nearly All” VA Claims for Gulf War Illness “Improperly Denied," The War Horse, May 20, 2021.)

Gulf War veterans need not lose hope. The key to success with Gulf War claims is persistence and insistence upon following the law. The team at K. McConnell Legal assists Gulf War veterans in their fight for the benefits they deserve to compensate them from the toxic exposures experienced in the Persian Gulf. Attorney Kristen McConnell is a Gulf War veteran herself and is passionate about this specific group of veterans. Contact us today at kristen@vtrnlw.com or (540) 862-0019.

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