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PTSD In Veterans of the Gulf War: What You Should Know

PTSD In Veterans of the Gulf War: What You Should Know

Military service can take a toll on many Veterans. After returning home from the service, many Veterans struggle with symptoms relating to mental illness.

Gulf War Veterans who have PTSD and other mental illnesses caused by their time in the service are entitled to benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Gulf War is one that many Veterans served in. Many are left with symptoms of PTSD. Though it can be difficult to make a claim for PTSD, this article will detail everything you need to know to make a claim and receive benefits from the VA.

Key Takeaways:

  • You’ll learn what the Gulf War was
  • You’ll understand the symptoms of PTSD
  • You’ll know how to make a claim for PTSD
  • You’ll learn how to make an appeal

What Was the Gulf War?

The 1990-1991 Gulf War was a war where the U.S. was involved against the forces of Saddam Hussein after he invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Even years after the war ended, many Veterans of Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield are still affected by medical conditions, including PTSD.

The U.S. military did not capture Saddam Hussein until December 13, 2003. He was executed on December 30, 2006.

This stopped much of the conflict, but not everything ended, even after the main leader was captured.

Though the Gulf War ended in the 90s, the U.S. did not pull out troops in Iraq until 2011, much after the official war ended.

Studies show that about every year, 12% of Veterans that served in the Gulf War have PTSD.

The official Gulf War did not last a very long time. However, the U.S. involvement in the Arabian Peninsula against Iraqi forces lasted long after the official war ended. 

Because of this, many Veterans who served throughout that period suffered from traumatic events.

What Is Gulf War Illness?

The Department of Defense (DOD) released a report in 2020 stating that Gulf War Illness, also known as Gulf War Syndrome, affects over 175,000 Gulf War-era Veterans. Gulf War Syndrome is a popular term used to designate undiagnosed illnesses related to a Veteran’s time on active duty in Afghanistan.

There are three categories that the VA uses to designate Gulf War Illness:

  • Undiagnosed illness
  • Infections diseases
  • Chronic multisymptom illnesses (MUCMIs) with unexplained symptoms
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Gastrointestinal Health Problems like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Memory Problems
  • Unexplained illnesses

If Veterans can get a service connection for Gulf War Illness, compensation and benefits will depend on the VA’s rating, which is by 10% increments. 

For more help or information on Gulf War Illness, contact our office.

What Is PTSD?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health disorder that can be caused by a traumatic event or experience. The DSM-5 is the current reference point used by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) for a PTSD diagnosis.

Many Air Force, Marine, Navy, and U.S. Army Veterans experience traumatic events when they are in the service. The events do not even have to be combat-related. Traumatic events in the military can include natural disasters, the death of fellow service members, or sexual assault.

Veterans who also experienced other traumatic events before and during their time in the service can be at higher risk of getting PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD can begin immediately after a Veteran returns home from service or years after. When it occurs and how intensely it occurs varies from Veteran to Veteran.

What is crucial for Veterans to know is that at any time that they begin to experience symptoms, they should go to a healthcare or psychiatry clinician to get a proper diagnosis.

But what are the symptoms of PTSD?

Symptoms of PTSD

There are many symptoms of PTSD. They are usually categorized into four groups, with various mental and physical health symptoms.

Re-Experiencing: 

These mental health symptoms can make the Veteran feels as though they are re-experiencing the traumatic event, no matter how long ago it was. It can come in the form of:

  • Bad dreams
  • Flashbacks
  • Frightening thoughts

Avoidance: 

This leads Veterans to avoid people, places, or things that remind them of the traumatic event. Veterans often self-report the following:

  • Avoiding thoughts or feelings that remind them of the traumatic event
  • Avoiding family or loved ones that remind them of the traumatic event
  • Extreme circumstances can lead to isolation and homelessness

Arousal and Reactivity: 

Causes Veterans to have quick outbursts and jittery reactions at a greater prevalence than normal.

  • Feeling tense
  • Sleep impairment
  • Easily startled

Cognition and Mood: 

Leads Veterans to have negative thoughts or feelings about themself. These symptoms can dramatically decrease a Veteran’s health and quality of life.

  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Feeling of guilt or shame
  • Losing interest in things they previously enjoyed

To heal from PTSD, Veterans must seek treatment from health providers. The symptoms of PTSD vary between different Veterans, and the symptoms vary in intensity as well.

Some PTSD symptoms may not develop severe over time, but it is best not to let them go untreated. While in treatment, make sure to self-report your health status accurately to your doctor and attend follow-up appointments.

Many Veterans who struggle with PTSD feel lost and confused if they cannot find treatment when they return from service. Over time, they begin to feel isolated and disconnected from regular life.

Extreme forms of PTSD can contribute to homelessness or even suicide.

If you experience symptoms of PTSD and need treatment, contact an experienced attorney, such as Berry Law, so that we can advocate for you and direct you to the help that you need.

How To Make a Claim for PTSD

Making a claim for Veteran benefits can be a long and difficult process. Many times Veterans struggle to know what is involved throughout the process. 

Veterans must know what they need to prove with a claim so that it is not denied by the VA and the VA does not give them a lower rating than what they deserve.

Claims for PTSD through the VA are notoriously more complex than other claims because the VA uses a different set of rules when they make their decisions.

Here are the factors that need to be proven to make a claim for PTSD:

  • Current diagnosis under the standards of DSM-5
  • Proof of an in-service stressor
  • Medical evidence that makes a link between the diagnosis and in-service stressor

Many times, a Veteran will need to have extra evidence to prove their claim. This evidence can come in a variety of different forms. Some of the best evidence includes service records, buddy statements, and news reports.

Sometimes the VA will disregard the need for corroborating evidence, so the Veteran will not have to worry about it.

However, it never hurts to have a substantial amount of evidence. The Veteran should have enough evidence, so there is little to no room for the VA to make a mistake or misjudgment.

If you are a Veteran and are unsure about what evidence is best for making a claim for PTSD, an experienced attorney can make the process easier.

It can be challenging for Veterans to take on making a claim by themselves. It adds more stress to their lives and can make it difficult to transition into civilian life. Having a team to advocate for you will not only make it easier but can help make your claim more effective.

How To Appeal a VA Decision

Every year the VA denies or gives low ratings for Veteran’s claims. Sometimes it is because of a mistake made by the VA, while other times, it is because of a lack of evidence.

The good news is that no matter what the decision is, a Veteran can appeal it. However, Veterans must appeal within one year of the initial VA decision. Failure to do so will result in the Veteran having to make a whole new claim, increasing the amount of time it takes for them to receive their benefits.

Veterans should work with an attorney who is experienced with the VA so they can hope for the best results. The appeal process is more complex and lofty than the initial claims process, and if a Veteran is not familiar with all the details involved, they may become discouraged. 

Veterans have three options for appealing:

  1. Make a supplemental claim
  2. Appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals
  3. Ask for a higher-level review

Your attorney will help guide you on the best route to take. This is usually determined by the reasoning why the VA denied or gave a low rating in the first place.

For example, if the VA did not find enough supportive evidence to prove your claim, you may want to appeal with a supplemental claim. This will allow you to gather more evidence that helps to prove your claim.

Conclusion

Though the official Gulf War was brief, many American soldiers were involved during and after.

The traumatic experience that many service members faced left them suffering from PTSD. Without treatment or diagnosis, it could lead to more symptoms and consequences.

Veterans can make a claim for their service-connected PTSD and receive benefits from the VA so they can seek treatment and healing.

For more information on VA law and benefits, visit our website.

Sources:

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder | MedlinePlus

GWIRP | Department of Defense Gulf War Illness Research Program

How Common is PTSD in Veterans? | PTSD.VA.GOV

Persian Gulf War – Definition, Causes & Dates | HISTORY

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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