What Is Gulf War Illness?

Gulf War Illness is a term used to describe the unexplained chronic illnesses occurring in veterans of the 1991 Gulf War. While the experiences of each person with this condition vary widely, the most common symptoms may include:

  • Musculoskeletal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Skin rashes
  • Cognitive problems
  • Diarrhea

Gulf War Illness may resemble other medical conditions, so it is important that veterans consult their doctor if they begin exhibiting any of the above symptoms. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), approximately one-third of all Gulf War veterans suffer from a chronic multisymptom illness (CMI). Due to the common presence of the above symptoms in other disorders, Gulf War Illness can be difficult to diagnose, making it a frustrating problem for veterans and their healthcare providers. 

Despite extensive research, the cause of Gulf War Illness remains unexplained. Some possible causes include chemical warfare agents, such as nerve gas, or psychological factors, such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many veterans with Gulf War illness have also been diagnosed with a psychological disorder, so there could be a link between the two conditions. Other chemical agents such as smoke from oil well fires, pesticides, and exposure to solvents or corrosive chemicals could also be a causal factor in the development of the disease.

How Does The VA Rate Gulf War Illness

The VA disability system refers to Gulf War Illness as “chronic multisymptom illness” or “undiagnosed illness” to avoid confusion with other conditions because the symptoms vary widely. When considering a Gulf War veteran for service connection for this condition, the VA presumes that certain chronic, unexplained symptoms existing for six months or more are due to Gulf War service. Under 38 CFR § 3.317, the veteran does not need to provide additional proof to support service connection for their condition as long as they served overseas during the 1991 Gulf War.

The VA rates “chronic multisymptom illnesses” using evaluation criteria from 38 CFR Part 4 for a disease or injury in which the affected functions, anatomical location, or symptomatology are similar. For example, if a Gulf War veteran with chronic multisymptom illness had symptoms which align closely with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), the VA would use the rating schedule for IBS to determine a schedular disability rating for the veteran’s Gulf War Illness. 

Get Help With Your Gulf War Illness Claim

If you or someone you know is a veteran struggling with Gulf War Illness and would like some help seeking VA disability benefits for his or her condition, please contact our office today. Our experienced veterans disability attorneys are ready to help you get the compensation to which you are entitled.