In response to veterans suffering from undiagnosed medical conditions, Congress enacted 38 U.S.C. § 1117, which eliminated the nexus requirement for some “qualifying chronic disabilities.” Thus, if a veteran of the Persian Gulf era suffers from a qualifying chronic disability which manifests to a degree of 10 percent or more since return from active duty in Southwest Asia, then service connection is presumed.
The Gulf War period is defined as beginning on August 2, 1990, and continuing as of today, so Gulf War veterans include not only veterans who served during the first Gulf War in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, but also any veteran who has served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations since then. Southwest Asia includes:
A qualifying chronic disability is defined as:
Symptoms of an undiagnosed illness includes fatigue, unexplained rashes or other dermatological disorders, headaches, muscle pain, joint pain, neurological and psychological issues, respiratory disorders, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal disorders, cardiovascular disorders, abnormal weight loss, and menstrual disorders. These symptoms must be chronic, meaning they must have existed for six months or more, or have exhibited intermittent episodes of improvement and worsening over a six-month period.
Chronic multisymptom illnesses include chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome or other functional gastrointestinal disorders, or any other medically unexplained chronic illness for which VA will make a case by case determination.
Finally, the VA presumes service connection for nine infectious diseases: brucellosis, campylobacter jejuni, coxiella burnetii (Q fever), malaria, mycobacterium tuberculosis, nontyphoid salmonella, shigella, visceral leishmaniasis, and West Nile virus. With the exception of visceral leishmaniasis and mycobacterium tuberculosis, an infectious disease must manifest to a degree of 10 percent or more within one year of service in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan.
Gulf War Syndrome claims are complicated and confusing because the VA essentially requires a diagnosis of an undiagnosed illness. If a physician or the VA gives you a specific diagnosis, you will not be entitled to presumptive service connection and instead will have to prove service connection for that diagnosis.
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