Gulf War Syndrome
Gulf War Syndrome is a term used to classify a group of seemingly unrelated symptoms that many veterans experienced after serving in the Gulf War. Gulf War Syndrome is not an actual condition, just a catch-all term for various symptoms.
The VASRD does not give a VASRD Code or Military Disability Rating for Gulf War Syndrome. Instead, the individual symptoms that are classified as Gulf War Syndrome are rated separately.
While VA Disability is given for every Gulf War Syndrome symptom a veteran has, DoD Disability is only given for Gulf War Syndrome symptoms that make the service member Unfit for Duty.
Gulf War Syndrome is included on the VA Presumptive List for Gulf War veterans. If you meet the requirements on the list, your Gulf War Syndrome symptoms will automatically be considered service-connection and qualify for VA Disability.
The symptoms classified as Gulf War Syndrome can be very different for each case. Gulf War Syndrome symptoms can include, but are not limited to, fatigue, headaches, memory problems, joint pain, diarrhea, indigestion, nerve conditions, skin conditions, respiratory conditions, mental health symptoms, and many more.
Each of these Gulf War Syndrome symptoms should be rated as separate conditions. Remember, however, that a single symptom CANNOT be rated twice (see the Pyramiding principle), so if a rating for one symptom also covers another symptom, the symptoms cannot be rated separately. For example, difficulty breathing and low oxygen in the blood are both covered by a single respiratory condition rating. Since one rating already covers both, a second rating cannot be given.
Let’s walk through an example of rating Gulf War Syndrome. Let’s say that veteran Bob has the following symptoms that have been classified as Gulf War Syndrome:
- Skin rashes
- Difficulty concentrating
If we sort through these symptoms, we find that the majority of them (depression, nightmares, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and flashbacks) are mental symptoms. Mental Disorders cannot be rated separately since it is impossible to determine which mental disorder causes which symptom, so to avoid Pyramiding, a single mental disorder is rated using all of the mental symptoms. For Bob, the VA will choose whichever mental disorder they feel best describes his symptoms and then give him a single rating based on all of his mental symptoms.
Veteran Bob’s remaining Gulf War Syndrome symptoms are all unrelated to each other, and thus can be rated separately. Fatigue can be rated as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, code 6354. Headaches are rated as Migraine Headaches under code 8100. And skin rashes can be rated under code 7806, Dermatitis.
That’s it. Just remember that when rating Gulf War Syndrome, the VA will rate each symptom separately unless two or more symptoms are all covered by a single condition.
To ensure that you receive the proper Military Disability Rating for your Gulf War Syndrome, make sure to understand the entire DoD Disability Process, VA Disability Process, and how the VASRD rates conditions.
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Gulf War Syndrome FAQs
How will the VA rate my Gulf War Syndrome?
The VA will rate each Gulf War Syndrome symptom separately as long as the Pyramiding Principle is honored, meaning that no symptom is rated twice.
My Gulf War Syndrome wasn't diagnosed until after I was discharged. Can it qualify for VA disability?
Yes. If there is clear evidence that you meet the Gulf War service requirements noted on the Presumptive List, it can qualify for VA Disability as long as the symptoms manifest to 10% in the designated timeline.
How do I apply to receive my ratings?
If you are still in the military, you can request your military physician to refer you to the MEB and start the IDES process. If you are already a veteran, you can submit a VA Disability Claim along with evidence of service-connection and all medical records regarding the conditions on the claim.
Are my conditions eligible for a rating?
Your conditions are eligible to be rated by the VA if they are the result of your military service. You must be able to show proof of service-connection for each condition. For the DoD, they will rate your service-connected conditions as long as they also make you Unfit for Duty.
If my claim is approved, what benefits will I receive?
If you are rated 20% or less from the DoD, then you will receive a single separation payment. If you are rated 30% or more, you will receive full retirement benefits. From the VA, you will receive a monthly payment as well as full medical care from the VA for the qualifying conditions.
How long does it take to receive my disability benefits?
Brand new claims usually take 3-6 months to process. Once processed, you will start receiving payments in 1-3 months.
How are the rating percentages assigned to my conditions?
The rules of the VA's Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) are used to assign rating percentages to conditions. The VASRD gives rating rules for conditions based on their symptoms, treatment options, and the resulting level of disability they cause.
My conditions have worsened. How do I increase my rating percentages?
If your conditions have worsened since you last applied and now qualify for a higher rating, you can submit a new claim, checking the box for an increased evaluation.