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Gulf War Vets Given Extension to File Disability Claims

Presumptive service-related illnesses includes chronic fatigue, GI disorders, cardiovascular disease

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The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) extended by five years the period during which Gulf War veterans with a disability rating of 10 percent or more can file to receive benefits for certain illnesses related to their service. Disability ratings quantify the severity of a disability and help determine the amount of disability compensation.

Previously, these veterans had a deadline of Dec. 31, 2021, but that was extended to Dec. 31, 2026, for those whose conditions may appear at a later date. The department also said that the 2021 deadline would be premature because medical studies are still unclear on the causes of illness linked to the battlefield and on when those illnesses may appear.

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Although the Gulf War was waged between 1990 and 1991, in terms of VA benefit eligibility, the Gulf War period is still in effect. That means that anyone who served on active duty from Aug. 2, 1990, to the present is considered a Gulf War Veteran and meets the wartime service requirement for these benefits.  

Medically unexplained illnesses related to Gulf War service include chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and functional gastrointestinal disorders. Other undiagnosed illnesses with the following symptoms are also presumed related to service: abnormal weight loss, cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain, headache, menstrual disorders, neurological and psychological problems, skin conditions, sleep disturbances and respiratory disorders such as asthma.  

Eligible veterans who are experiencing any of these symptoms or other unexplained medical issues should file a compensation claim here.

VA expects claims backlog to grow

In May the VA expanded disability claims for Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and are suffering from bladder cancer, hypothyroidism or Parkinson’s-like symptoms. Months later, it also began accepting claims from Gulf War veterans and others exposed to particulate matter who, as a result, have asthma, rhinitis or sinusitis.

Since then the VA has processed more than 3,800 claims and paid out millions of dollars to Gulf War veterans. However, as a result of the expanded benefits to both era of veterans, VA Secretary Denis McDonough expects a new flood of claims to increase the backlog.

In response, the VA is hiring an additional 2,000 new claims processors. McDonough also said the department is dipping into its 2022 budget to expedite toxic exposure claims by digitizing records and providing more funding to compensation and pension exams.

“We fully expect to reach our goal of reducing the claims backlog to 100,000 claims by 2024,” he said.

Aaron Kassraie writes about issues important to military veterans and their families for AARP. He also serves as a general assignment reporter. Kassraie previously covered U.S. foreign policy as a correspondent for the Kuwait News Agency’s Washington bureau and worked in news gathering for USA Today and Al Jazeera English.​​

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