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6.10. Gulf War Veterans
38 C.F.R. §§ 3.317(c), (e)(1). The Southwest Asia theater of operations refers to Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, and the airspace above these locations. 38 C.F.R. § 3.317(e)(2).
A veteran who served in Southwest Asia can be service connected for "undiagnosed illness" without direct evidence of a nexus between hos or her service and the illness. For the purposes of this section, Southwest Asia includes Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Oman, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, and the airspace above. VA also considers service in Afghanistan to be included.
A veteran having service in any of these areas since August 2, 1990, is considered eligible for presumptive service connection for one or more of the following "manifestations:"
- An undiagnosed illness;
- A medically unexplained chronic multisymptom condition (such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or irritable bowel syndrome; or
- One of a list of infectious diseases determined by the VA, which includes leishmaniasis
A veteran who served on active military, naval, or air service in the Southwest Asia theater of operations during the Persian Gulf War is entitled to presumptive service connection for the following conditions:
- Campylobacter jejuni
- Coxiella burnetii (Q fever)
- Mycobacterium tuberculosis
- Nontyphoid Salmenella
- Visceral leishmaniasis
- West Nile virus
Finally, for an undiagnosed illness or medically unexplained illness the condition must have manifested itself during service or to a "degree of 10 percent or more during the presumptive period, which is continuing since August 1990. For infectious diseases the presumptive period varies by disease from one year to no time limit.
For "undiagnosed" and "multisymptom" diseases that do not have their own rating tables, the issue of which condition is "similar" to the claimant's condition can mean the difference between an award and denial. VA is required to explain why they used a particular table and must take into account the claimant's specific symptoms. Using the wrong rating table can unfairly prevent a 10% rating.
Another common problem is private physicians trying to diagnose something to assist the veteran. A diagnoses, even if only an attempt to narrow the possible causes, does not satisfy the "undiagnosed" condition requirement, as VA as pointed out in many denials. Claimants should discuss the difference between a best guess diagnoses and a diagnoses to a medical certainty if a Gulf War claim is being considered.
Veterans of the Persian Gulf with a health concern are eligible for an examination, whether or not he or she has a current condition. Persons undergoing the examination are added to the VA Persian Gulf War Veterans Health Registry. This registry allows VA to track Persian Gulf Veterans health conditions and, hopefully, detect conditions related to service in that theater that should be added to the presumptive list.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the expansion of disability benefits available to veterans who served in Southwest Asia. Gulf War and post-9/11 veterans are now able to receive presumption of service connection for conditions related to toxic exposures from their deployments.
Veterans who deployed to the Southwest Asia theater may have been exposed to smoke from burn pits and unpaved roads, industrial air pollution, sand, dust, and exhaust from diesel and other internal combustion engines.
Those who served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations beginning Aug. 2, 1990, to the present; or Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Syria, or Djibouti beginning Sept. 19, 2001, to the present are presumed to have been exposed to particulate matter.
The Southwest Asia theater of operations refers to Iraq, Kuwait, the neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, and the airspace above these locations. Veterans who believe they may be eligible for presumptive service connection due to asthma, rhinitis, or sinusitis that began within 10 years of their separation from service are encouraged to apply for disability benefits.
Bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinson’s due to Agent Orange exposure have now been added to the list of presumptive conditions. VA also announced it will presumptively pay disability benefits to veterans who served in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and southwest Asia who now suffer from asthma, sinusitis and rhinitis.