Veterans discharged under conditions other than dishonorable who served in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations, which includes the areas specified by regulation, but not Afghanistan, may be entitled to disability compensation for certain undiagnosed illnesses, certain diagnosable chronic disability patterns, and certain presumptive diseases ( as described below) even though these disorders did not become manifest during qualifying service. Veterans who served in Afghanistan on or after September 19, 2001, may be entitled to disability compensation for certain presumptive diseases.
- Qualifying undiagnosed illnesses or diagnosable chronic disability patterns, that appeared either during a qualifying period of active service or prior to December 31, 2016, must meet the following conditions:
- There must be no other cause for your disability or illness than service in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations.
- your disability existed for 6 months or more, AND
- If your disability or illness did not appear during active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations, then it must have appeared prior to December 31, 2016, to a degree that is at least 10-percent disabling (for VA rating purposes).
The disability must be one or more of the following:
- Undiagnosed illnesses. These are illnesses that may include but are not limited to: abnormal weight loss, fatigue, cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain, headache, menstrual disorders, neurological and psychological problems, skin conditions, respiratory disorders, and sleep disturbances.
- Diagnosable functional gastrointestinal disorders. Functional gastrointestinal disorders are a group of conditions characterized by chronic or recurrent symptoms that are unexplained. These disorders may include but are not limited to irritable bowel syndrome, functional dyspesia, functional vomiting, functional constipation, functional bloating, functional abdominal pain syndrome, and functional dysphagia.
- Diagnosable Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Diagnosable Fibromyalgia
Certain presumptive diseases, which will be considered to have been incurred in or aggravated by service even if there is no evidence of such disease during active service. With three exceptions (see asterisks), one of the following must have become manifest to a degree of 10 percent or more within 1 year of the date of separation from a qualifying period of active service:
- Campylobacter jejuni
- Coxiella burnetii (Q fever)
- Malaria* (if not 10 percent or more within one year of separation, may be 10 percent or more at a time when standard or accepted treatises indicate that the incubation period commenced during qualifying period of service)
- Mycobacterium tuberculosis* (no time limit)
- Nontyphoid Salmonella
- Visceral leishmaniasis* (no time limit)
- West Nile Virus
- The evidence must show you served in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations, as defined by regulation or served in Afghanistan on or after September 19, 2001,for benefits associated with certain presumptive diseases.
- Medical evidence of treatment of the claimed disability or illness.
- If there is no medical evidence that you have been previously treated for a disability pattern and the only significant evidence is a lay statement describing the disability pattern, a VA examination may be needed (VA will request an examination).
- • For undiagnosed illness claims, the evidence may be medical evidence or nonmedical indications that can be independently observed or verified such as lost time from work, changes in appearance, changes in physical abilities, and changes in mental or emotional attitudes (Note: Independently verified means it must be possible for VA to obtain verification of the nonmedical indicators from an independent source).
Gulf War Service
For VA benefit purposes under 38 CFR 3.317, Gulf War service is active military duty in any of the following areas in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations at any time August 2, 1990 to present. This includes Veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2010) and Operation New Dawn (2010-2011).
- Saudi Arabia
- The neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia
- The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.)
- Gulf of Aden
- Gulf of Oman
- Waters of the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea
- The airspace above these locations
Note: Service in Afghanistan on or after September 19, 2001, is considered qualifying service for disability benefits associated with certain presumptive diseases.
VA offers eligible Veterans a free Gulf War Registry health exam.