Gulf War Veterans with Unexplained Chronic Multi-Symptom Illness

The Gulf War was a conflict that saw the deployment of numerous American troops to the Middle East. Gulf War service is defined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as active military duty in areas in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations at any time from August 2, 1990, to the present. This includes Veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2010) and Operation New Dawn (2010-2011).

While many Veterans returned home safely, a significant number of them began to experience unexplained illnesses post-war. Gulf War Syndrome, Gulf War Illness, or Medically Unexplained Chronic Multi-Symptom Illness (MUCMI) are terms used to describe the various health challenges experienced by Veterans who served in the Gulf War.

It is estimated that around 25-32% of Gulf War Veterans are affected by these conditions. The U.S. government and medical community have recognized the issue, but the exact causes and effective treatments remain elusive.

Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Causes of Gulf War Illness

Gulf War Veterans with medically unexplained multi-symptom illness experience a wide range of symptoms, including fatigue, muscle pain, cognitive difficulties, digestive issues, and respiratory problems. These symptoms often overlap with other conditions, making it challenging for medical professionals to provide a definitive diagnosis. The lack of a single, identifiable cause further complicates the diagnostic process.

Several factors have been proposed as potential causes of Gulf War Syndrome. Exposure to toxins and environmental hazards, such as chemical weapons, pesticides, depleted uranium, and oil well fires, are some of the primary suspects. Additionally, the psychological stressors of war cannot be overlooked as a potential contributor to the development of unexplained illnesses.

Impact on Veterans’ Lives

Gulf War Veterans with MUCMI face numerous challenges in their daily lives. Physical limitations and chronic pain can make it difficult for them to carry out everyday tasks. Cognitive and emotional difficulties may hinder their ability to maintain relationships and perform well at work. The financial burden of medical care, combined with the strain on personal relationships, can take a significant toll on Veterans’ overall well-being.

VA Disability Benefits for Gulf War Syndrome

Gulf War Veterans can apply for VA disability benefits related to medically unexplained illness. To apply for VA disability for Gulf War Syndrome, Veterans should follow these steps:

  • Gather necessary documentation, including military records, medical evidence, and a completed VA Form 21-526EZ (Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits).
  • Submit the application form and supporting documents to the VA online, by mail, or in person at a local VA office.
  • Attend a VA medical examination if required by the VA to assess the Veteran’s condition.
  • Wait for the VA’s decision on the claim. If denied, the Veteran has the right to appeal the decision.

Presumptive Condition

MUCMI as a result of Gulf War Syndrome is now considered a presumptive condition for Gulf War Veterans. This means that the VA presumes the condition is related to the Veteran’s military service if they meet certain criteria, even without direct evidence linking the condition to their service.


To qualify for VA disability benefits related to Gulf War Syndrome, Veterans must meet the following criteria:

  • Served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations during the Gulf War (August 2, 1990, to present).
  • Have a medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illness that is at least 10% disabling and has persisted for six months or more.

The Southwest Asia theater of military operations defined by the VA as eligible for disability benefits includes:

  • Afghanistan (airspace not included)
  • Bahrain
  • Egypt (airspace not included)
  • Iraq
  • Israel
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • The neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Syria (airspace not included)
  • Turkey (airspace not included)
  • The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.)
  • Waters of the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, and Red Sea
  • The airspace above these locations unless otherwise specified

The MUCMI must include at least one of the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Signs or symptoms involving skin
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Neurological signs or symptoms
  • Neuropsychological signs or symptoms
  • Signs or symptoms involving the respiratory system
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Gastrointestinal signs or symptoms
  • Cardiovascular signs or symptoms
  • Abnormal weight loss
  • Menstrual disorders

VA Disability Rating

The VA assigns disability ratings based on the severity of the Veteran’s condition. For Gulf War Syndrome, the rating can range from 0% to 100%, depending on the frequency, severity, and duration of symptoms, as well as their impact on the Veteran’s daily functioning. The VA uses the General Rating Formula for Medically Unexplained Chronic Multi-symptom Illnesses to determine the appropriate disability rating.

Gulf War Veterans need to work with an experienced VA disability benefits attorney to help navigate the application process and ensure they receive the appropriate disability rating and benefits they deserve.

How a VA Disability Benefits Lawyer Can Help Gulf War Veterans

When filing an initial claim for VA disability benefits related to Gulf War Syndrome, a lawyer can help in the following ways:

  • Reviewing the Veteran’s case to determine eligibility, determine presumptive service, and gather evidence.
  • Assisting in completing the VA Form 21-526EZ and ensuring all required documentation is submitted.
  • Helping the Veteran obtain relevant medical records and opinions from private physicians to support their claim.
  • Preparing a comprehensive brief that outlines the Veteran’s case, including medical evidence and legal arguments, to submit with the initial claim.
  • Communicating with the VA on behalf of the Veteran and tracking the progress of the claim.

Appealing a Denial or Low Disability Rating

If the VA denies a Gulf War Veteran’s claim or assigns a lower disability rating than expected, a lawyer can help with the appeals process by:

  • Reviewing the VA’s decision to identify the reasons for denial or the low disability rating.
  • Gathering additional medical evidence and expert opinions to support the Veteran’s case.
  • Filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) with the VA, expressing the Veteran’s intention to appeal the decision.
  • Preparing a comprehensive appeal brief that addresses the VA’s reasons for denial and argues for a higher disability rating or service connection.
  • Representing the Veteran during hearings before a Veterans Law Judge, if necessary.
  • Continuously communicating with the VA and the Veteran throughout the appeals process.

Contact Berry Law to File a VA Disability Claim for Gulf War Illness

Veterans deserve every benefit owed to them. When dealing with disability claims related to Gulf War illnesses, Veterans don’t have to face it alone. Berry Law is more than a law firm; it’s a team of Veterans who understand the challenges Veterans face. With their experience in handling claims like these, Berry Law empowers Veterans to fight for the benefits they deserve.

The firm helps Veterans navigate the complexities of disability claims, ensures they meet all requirements to qualify for disability benefits, gathers essential evidence for their case, and advocates for the maximum benefits they have earned.

Contact Berry Law today at (888) 883-2483 for a free consultation or fill out our online contact form to speak with our Veterans disability lawyers. The firm represents Veterans in all 50 states, and their legal team is available 24/7 to answer questions and provide assistance.

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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