The Department of Veterans Affairs provides Gulf War Veteran benefits to many of today’s younger Veterans of US armed services. The VA offers special services to these Veterans of many kinds, especially because anyone serving during this time qualifies as serving during wartime. This is an important distinction because these Veterans are eligible for a number of benefits that are only available to those who served in wartime. In addition, there are quite a few other benefits that the VA offers those who served during the Gulf War era.
Who Qualifies as a Gulf War Veteran?
Defining the Gulf War Era is sometimes difficult, as there have been several conflicts within and around the Persian Gulf region that the US Armed Forces have been involved in. These conflicts also range over a number of decades, sometimes overlapping with one another and sometimes existing in standalone time periods.
According to the VA, more than 650,000 service members served in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm alone; in the decades since, this figure has grown ever larger and continues to grow today.
The first Gulf War took place in 1990 and lasted through 1991, revolving around the Iraq-Kuwait conflict. Meanwhile, the second Gulf War began shortly after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 and continued through a number of campaigns in Iraq to officially end in December 2011. As a result, these wars have shaped the lives of many Veterans.
Additionally, Veterans of the conflict in Afghanistan, which began after 9/11 and have continued through to 2021, are also considered Gulf War Veterans as well. In fact, any service member who served as an enlisted member or who was commissioned as an officer since August 2, 1990 is considered a Gulf War Veteran.
Gulf War Veteran Benefits in General
On a general basis, Gulf War Veterans can qualify for all the VA benefits open to any service member who puts in the minimum amount of time required serving their country. There is a whole selection of basic and advanced benefits available to Veterans of all stripes, and these include healthcare, training, education, pension benefits, and even home loans in some circumstances. Gulf War Veterans can apply for these benefits at any VA regional office or through the eBenefits portal.
Issues Specific to Gulf War Veterans
The Gulf War era is unlike any other when it comes to the effects it has had on Veterans serving during the time period. The VA has been hard at work identifying and researching a number of issues that Gulf War Veterans often have to face. These prominent conditions that affect Gulf War Veterans have come to be called, collectively, “Gulf War Syndrome”, and while not every Gulf War Veteran faces Gulf War Syndrome, many of these Veterans do – and that means that these issues are often addressed through Gulf War Veteran benefits.
The VA describes Gulf War Syndrome as a whole cluster of chronic symptoms that can’t be explained medically. These symptoms often include memory impairment, respiratory disorders, dizziness, joint pain, insomnia, headaches, joint pain, fatigue, and even skin problems. The VA also sometimes describes Gulf War Syndrome interchangeably as “undiagnosed illnesses” or “chronic multi-symptom illness”.
Illnesses and Medical Conditions Specific to the Gulf War
In many situations, the VA simply presumes that anyone serving during the Gulf War era in specific locations and began suffering from certain symptoms are connected to your service. This goes beyond the Gulf War Syndrome; there are a number of different illnesses and medical conditions specific to the Gulf War. These include a wide variety of issues, such as infectious diseases like West Nile Virus and shingles that are endemic to certain areas. Other medical issues include a heightened risk for ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, for Veterans who served 90 days or more continuously in the Gulf.
That being said, there are some requirements that need to be met before you can be considered entitled to VA disability benefits. You need to have not received a dishonorable discharge in addition to serving in the region during the Gulf War. You also need to satisfy all of the following requirements:
- Your medical issues began while serving before 2017 (December 31, 2016 to be precise)
- You were sick for a period of at least six months
- You qualify for a minimum VA disability rating of 10%
- The condition was caused specifically by your service in the Gulf region, often referred to as “the Southwest Asia theater of operations” by the VA
Meanwhile, the VA also makes it a requirement for any Veteran applying for Gulf War Veteran benefits to also have at least one of the following illnesses or conditions:
- A Functional gastrointestinal disorder
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Any other “undiagnosed illness”, including but not limited to headaches, muscle and joint pain, and cardiovascular disease
The VA also offers “Presumed Disability Benefits” to Veterans. These are available to any Veteran of at least a 10% disability rating who began experiencing the presumed disability in less than a year before leaving service. The list of presumed disabilities for Gulf War Veterans is as follows:
- West Nile virus
- Nontyphoid salmonella
- Q Fever (Coxiella burneti)
- Campylobacter jejuni
More Information about Gulf War Veteran Benefits from the VA
Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that more than one out of every three Veterans serving during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield suffer from Gulf War Syndrome. That represents hundreds of thousands of servicemembers alone. On top of that, presumed illnesses from diseases like West Nile, shingles, and malaria have also taken a major toll on the health of Veterans.
The VA urges any Veteran that was deployed to the Persian Gulf region who’s worrying about the medical conditions they’re currently suffering from to contact them for a specific medical exam. This Gulf War Registry Health Exam is meant to help Veterans identify whether their conditions fall under the umbrella of health concerns that would qualify them for Gulf War Veteran benefits.
This exam isn’t part of any disability compensation exam; there’s no requirement to submit to this in order to claim any other VA benefits that aren’t specifically associated with serving during the Gulf War. It’s also not based on your military records, either; instead, the exam relies on your memory of the events that led to any injuries or potential exposures. You can also request additional exams if new problems or symptoms develop that weren’t present at your first exam.
The examination itself, which consists of a physical as well as a review of your time spent deployed, is conducted by VA health care professionals and is free for eligible Veterans. You don’t need to worry about a co-pay or be involved in the VA healthcare system to be examined.
How to Begin the Process for Claiming Gulf War Veterans Benefits
Many Veterans face complex challenges when it comes to getting the help they need through the Veteran’s Administration. Navigating the red tape of the VA can be exhausting and frustrating, especially when you’re suffering from illnesses and conditions that affect your ability to function. Gulf War Syndrome is without a doubt one of those conditions, and this means that getting help in the form of Gulf War Veteran benefits is often difficult simply because the effects of the condition can make it next to impossible to function on any given day.
In situations like these, you deserve to get the help you need. As an acknowledgment of how difficult this process can be for a Veteran suffering from service-related health issues, the VA has authorized Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs), non-profit companies that provide much-needed help and services for Veterans, to aid Vets in applying for Gulf War Veteran benefits.
There’s a reason the National Veterans Foundation is called the Lifeline for Vets – we don’t leave anyone behind. We’ve been providing Veteran outreach resources since 1985, helping to ease the lives of more than 450,000 Veterans in that time. We’re here for you as well.
Whether you need help and advice to get through the application process or you simply need someone to talk to, the NVF is here for you no matter what. Contact us today and rest assured that help is on the way.
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