VA Extends Health Care, Compensation for Gulf War Illnesses

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The VA has extended presumptive service-connection for Gulf War veterans suffering from undiagnosed and medically unexplained chronic multi-system illnesses to Dec. 31, 2016. The claims filing period had been set to expire at the end of 2012.

“This is a sound decision by the VA because researchers are still baffled by the extensive illnesses suffered by veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War,” said Washington Headquarters Executive Director Barry Jesinoski. “It’s crucial that the VA continues to provide service-connected health care and compensation to the men and women who served in that war.”

“Gulf War veterans are suffering from multiple symptoms that include persistent memory and concentration problems, chronic headaches, widespread pain, gastrointestinal problems and other chronic abnormalities,” said National Service Director Garry Augustine. “At present, no effective treatments have been identified for Gulf War illness, and studies indicate that few veterans have recovered from their symptoms.”

Congress initially approved a 1994 law granting presumptive service connection for two years to the veterans experiencing chronic, undiagnosed illnesses that include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders and memory problems. Due to a lack of scientific understanding about the nature and cause of Gulf War illnesses, which affect more than 175,000 veterans, VA has extended service connection several times.

“The prevalence of these illnesses has continued nearly unabated since the war,” Jesinoski said. “Extension of the presumption of service connection is warranted, and will now cover a period of 25 years after the war ended.”

“Gulf War illness is an example of the continuing cost of war paid for by the suffering of our veterans long after the battles have been fought,” he said. “While the war lasted less than 100 hours, the price of our victory will extend far into the future. Most of the criticism of the VA’s most recent extension is that 2016 is not long enough.”

“DAV has urged the VA to continue medical and scientific studies to determine the cause and nature of the multi-symptom illnesses affecting our veterans,” said Augustine. “The VA-supported studies by the National Academy of Sciences continue.”