Common VA Disabilities for Desert Shield & Desert Storm Veterans

On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army invaded the nation-state of Kuwait. This set off a chain reaction which led to George Bush, Sr. sending over 500,000 American troops to Southwest Asia and the Persian Gulf area for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. Veterans who served in Operation Desert Shield or Operation Desert Storm were subject to many different factors that could lead to various illnesses, health concerns or disabilities after service. If you are a Veteran living with a disability-related to service, you are entitled to disability compensation.

Types of Disabilities for Desert Shield and Desert Storm Veterans

Veterans who served in Southwest Asia were exposed to many different factors that may lead to a disability. Some common types of disabilities for Veterans who served in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm include:

  • Respiratory Conditions from chemical agents or pesticides
  • Psychological & Neurological Problems
  • Skin Conditions
  • Gastrointestinal Problems
  • Headaches and Memory Problems
  • Gulf War Syndrome

Respiratory Problems

One of the biggest problems for Desert Shield and Desert Storm Veterans is respiratory conditions. Veterans who served in Southwest Asia were likely exposed to air quality issues from sand particles and dust in the air. These Veterans could also be facing respiratory problems due to the burn pits and oil well fires. The military used burn pits to get rid of waste at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the smoke from these burn pits can lead to a variety of respiratory illnesses. The smoke from oil well fires could also lead to respiratory problems.

If you are a Veteran living with asthma, you may be able to get service connected for your condition. Asthma can develop as a result of exposure to air quality issues and potentially dangerous environments. Since many Desert Shield and Desert Storm Veterans were constantly breathing in dust and debris, the Department of Veterans Affairs may establish a service connection for asthma in some cases. However, service-connected asthma must have developed while a Veteran was on active duty.

If a Veteran previously was diagnosed with asthma or another respiratory condition before joining the army, this might qualify the Veteran to receive compensation. The VA could consider a previously diagnosed disability a secondary condition if aspects of a Veteran’s military service exacerbated the disability’s symptoms. For many Veterans with respiratory problems, their time serving in Operation Desert Shield or Operation Desert Storm may have worsened their symptoms.

Are you currently receiving disability compensation for a service-connected disability? If so, you may be able to receive increased benefits as compensation for a respiratory problem that was made worse by your service in the military. The VA also recognizes disabilities as secondary conditions if they develop as a result of a service-connected disability.

Psychological & Neurological Problems

Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield, like other military operations, left many Veterans with various psychological and neurological problems. Veterans exposed to combat or traumatic experiences may develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Veterans could also develop other psychological problems, such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder related to service.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological disorder that is highly common in Desert Storm and Desert Shield Veterans. For decades, PTSD was not recognized by the VA as a diagnosable disability, but the Department has since improved its approach to many mental health issues, including military trauma which can grant VA benefits, VA disability compensation or VA health care.

PTSD can develop as a result of traumatic experiences that Veterans endured while serving in the military. The condition’s symptoms include:

  • Avoidance: Many Veterans with PTSD feel intense anxiety when exposed to factors that remind them of their trauma. These factors can include people, places, items, and anything else they can mentally associate with a traumatic experience. As a result, many Veterans with PTSD will isolate themselves from significant relationships and other important aspects of life to avoid reminders of the trauma. 
  • Reliving: Some of the most troubling symptoms of PTSD for many Veterans are flashbacks, nightmares, and insomnia. Many Veterans with PTSD deal with disturbing recollections of their traumatic experiences, making it difficult to function and sleep well. 
  • Negative Thoughts and Feelings: Due to the highly toxic “blame the victim” mentality and other factors, many Veterans with PTSD feel intense guilt and shame regarding their trauma. Some Veterans may see their PTSD symptoms as indicative that they are weak. However, PTSD is not a weakness, nor is it anything to feel ashamed of. 
  • Arousal: People with PTSD may constantly feel on-edge and anxious, even when nothing seems to be wrong. This after-effect of a traumatic experience can linger for decades after a Veteran develops PTSD.

If you have been diagnosed with PTSD, you may be able to qualify for service connection and monthly disability compensation. To get disability benefits or veterans benefits for PTSD, the VA will need to acknowledge that you developed the disorder as a result of a traumatic experience from your time in the military.

Skin Conditions

Rashes and other types of skin irritation can be common among Gulf War era Veterans due to exposure to burn pits and oil well fires. A study by the International Journal of Medicine (QJM) noted that seborrheic dermatitis is twice as common as expected among Gulf War Veterans. Dermatitis is so prominent that Veterans are entitled to presumptive service connection for the condition, meaning they only need to prove they had Gulf War service and have dermatitis to receive service connection.

Some service-connected skin conditions may be severe enough to qualify a Veteran for significant disability compensation. However, some skin problems might be so mild that the VA does not recognize them as grounds for disability benefits. If the VA concludes that your skin condition is not at least 10% disabling according to the VA rating system, you may not be able to qualify for benefits.

If you feel that the VA has rated your skin condition too low on the disability rating scale, you have the right to appeal the VA’s decision with the help of an experienced attorney. Going through the appeals process may help you get a better outcome for your disability claim, but it’s always best to do so with a skilled lawyer representing you.

Gastrointestinal Problems 

Veterans who served in the Gulf War may also experience gastrointestinal problems. Some common conditions for Desert Shield and Desert Storm Veterans include GERD, IBS, dyspepsia, and abdominal pain syndrome. Many of these issues are associated with Gulf War Syndrome, which we will discuss in greater detail towards the end of this article.

Headaches and Memory Problems 

Many Veterans who served in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm experience headaches, migraines, and memory problems. Headaches and migraines are likely attributable to Gulf War Syndrome, which we will cover later in this article. Memory loss is also associated with Gulf War Syndrome, but it could also result from a traumatic brain injury or any blow to the head.

Headaches may be potentially service-connected as a secondary condition for traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI can cause severe headaches, which can increase the disability compensation that you receive. To qualify for disability benefits for headaches as a secondary condition, you will need to provide medical confirmation that directly links your headaches to TBI or another service-connected disability.

Gulf War Syndrome 

The most significant recurring illness in Desert Shield and Desert Storm Veterans is Gulf War Syndrome. Gulf War Syndrome occurs when Veterans deal with a variety of chronic, medically unexplained symptoms. The VA refers to this as chronic multisymptom illness. Some common symptoms and health problems associated with Gulf War Syndrome include:

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Headaches
  • Joint Pain
  • Indigestion
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Respiratory Disorders
  • Memory Problems

If you have any of these symptom illness or medical conditions as a Desert Shield or Desert Storm Veteran, you may be able to qualify for presumptive service connection from the VA.

Veterans Disability Lawyers

Service members who served in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm are likely dealing with disabilities and infectious diseases that are related to service without health care. If you are a Gulf War Veteran and you were denied disability compensation for your disabilities or were given a lower than expected rating from the VA, we can help you appeal your eligibility

The VA lawyers at Berry Law have helped thousands of Veterans successfully appeal unfavorable VA decisions. Featuring attorneys from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, Berry Law understands military service and what evidence you need to get your VA claim granted. Contact Berry Law today for a free case evaluation.