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VA Extends Deadline for Seeking Gulf War Illness Benefits

Posted on October 18, 2021 in Veterans Disability

Veterans seeking compensation for a disability or illness must typically show that it is “service-connected.” For VA this means that the disability or illness must have occurred during service, or have been diagnosed while the veteran was in service. Certain veterans are able to forgo this requirement for providing a medical nexus linking their condition to military service. For some groups, VA will presume the veteran’s in-service exposure caused his or her condition.  

The presumption of service connection may apply to the following groups: 

  • Veterans exposed to herbicides, such as Agent Orange 
  • Gulf War Veterans 
  • Former Prisoners of War 
  • Atomic Veterans (Veterans who had exposure to ionizing radiation)  

Specific to Gulf War Veterans, to qualify as disabling, a covered illness must have caused illness or symptoms for at least six months and: 

  • Occurred during service in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations from Aug. 2, 1990, to the present. This also includes Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2010) and Operation New Dawn (2010-2011), or;. 
  • Have been diagnosed as at least 10% disabling by the VA after service. 

VA defines Gulf War service as active military duty in the below areas in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations from August 2, 1990 to the present: 

  • Iraq
  • Kuwait
  • Saudi Arabia
  • The neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia
  • Bahrain
  • Qatar
  • The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.)
  • Oman
  • Gulf of Aden
  • Gulf of Oman
  • Waters of the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea
  • The airspace above these locations

Originally the VA was scheduled to stop awarding benefits to new Gulf War veterans with a related disability diagnosis that was given after the December 31, 2021 deadline. However, the VA has extended that cutoff date to Dec. 31, 2026.

In a Sept. 14, 2021, Federal Register posting, the VA gives two major reasons for this change:

As yet, no end date for the Persian Gulf War has been established;

Medical evidence is still unclear as to how long illnesses caused by Persian Gulf service take to show up in affected veterans.

As with Vietnam Veterans, researches may take years to connect Gulf War illnesses to specific military exposure. To aid in finding possible long-term health problems related to Gulf War service, the VA offers veterans a free Gulf War Registry health exam. Some may also be eligible for the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry.

The VA process is often frustrating and confusing, but Wettermark Keith is here to help! Please contact us with questions regarding your Gulf War illness claims or any VA benefits claims.