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Gulf War Disability Claims And The Common Mistakes Veterans Make

Mistake #1: Filing a claim for a presumptive condition listed under the Southwest Asia Theater when you actually served in Afghanistan.

There are two separate Gulf War Syndrome criteria depending on where you served and the qualifying conditions for each area are not the same.

The conditions of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, functional gastrointestinal conditions, and other undiagnosed illnesses are presumptive conditions for service in the Southwest Asia theater which covers the following countries: Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, The neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), Oman, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Waters of the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea, and the airspace above these locations. The conditions of Brucellosis, Campylobacter jejuni, Coxiella burnetii (Q fever), Malaria (or sooner in some cases), Nontyphoid salmonella, Shigella, and West Nile virus are presumptive conditions for service in Afghanistan.

Mistake #2: Filing a claim for a presumptive condition but not meeting the required 10% disability level.

In order to qualify for presumptive service-connection of Gulf War Syndrome, you must have a disability level of at least 10% on the 38CFR (code of federal regulations) rating scheme for that condition. If you meet all of the criteria but only qualify for a 0% rating the claim will likely be denied.

Mistake #3: Filing a claim for GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) as a presumptive condition in the Southwest Asia Theater.

The gastrointestinal condition(s) that meet criteria for presumptive service-connection are functional GI disorders not structural disorders. What does that mean? Well, functional gastrointestinal disorders are those that are characterized by persistent and recurring GI symptoms. These occur as a result of abnormal functioning of the GI tract and do not have visible or measurable abnormalities on lab tests, imaging studies, or procedures. Structural gastrointestinal disorders will have abnormalities in lab testing, imaging studies, or procedures (ulcers, erosions, masses, etc). For example: functional dyspepsia qualifies and GERD does not but these two conditions share many of the same symptoms and treatments. Often medical professionals (especially in the primary care field) will default to GERD without even realizing that it is a mistake. This mistake for a Veteran seeking service-connection can mean EVERYTHING! If you think that your GERD was misdiagnosed and is really a functional condition let your treating provider know your concerns and maybe even ask for a specialist consult with a gastroenterologist.

Mistake #4: Filing a claim for presumptive service-connection without having been formally diagnosed with the condition.

Yes, some Veterans have been successful with filing claims and showing up to the C&P exam where the provider formally diagnoses them with the condition and provides a favorable opinion to the rater with results in positive service-connection. However, this is not the case for most Veterans. Do yourself the favor and prepare your claims up front to save yourself time, money, and frustration. If you are experiencing symptoms, see your doctor or schedule with an urgent care/telehealth service, or other provider of your choice to get it documented before filing the claim. Why take chances or roll the dice that you get a sympathetic examiner and/or rater?

Mistake #5: Filing a claim for presumptive service-connection based on the "other undiagnosed illness" listing for the Southwest Asia theater, but actually having a "diagnosed" illness.

This one is like splitting hairs. Technically you can claim a condition from any body system (cardiac, respiratory, skin, etc.) as presumptive to Gulf War Syndrome, but the requirement is that it is an undiagnosed illness. What does that mean exactly? Well, as I spoke about functional GI conditions above, undiagnosed illnesses are those that do not have a known cause or can be identified by testing. They are usually diagnosed as a symptoms rather than a condition. For example: chronic cough with a normal workup (labs, imaging, negative smoking history) would qualify but pneumonia would not. Pneumonia is a known illness caused by bacteria/viruses and has a known disease course and treatment. Chronic cough would be an undiagnosed illness as we don't know where it is coming from or how to treat it.

I hope this information was helpful but if you think you are in need of services or are not sure, don't hesitate to reach out to us to ask questions.

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