Gulf War Syndrome

Soldiers burn trash in Iraq.
U.S. Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, put some trash onto a fire they are using to dispose of trash left behind by the removal of U.S. troops from Patrol Base Howell, Jan. 3, 2009. (US Army/Brian Short)

A prominent condition affecting Gulf War Veterans is a cluster of medically unexplained chronic symptoms that can include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders, and memory problems. VA refers to these illnesses as "chronic multisymptom illness" and "undiagnosed illnesses." This is what is commonly known as “Gulf War Syndrome” because it was first reported by Gulf War Veterans.

Military Service Connection

The VA presumes certain chronic, unexplained symptoms existing for 6 months or more are related to Gulf War service without regard to cause. These "presumptive" illnesses must have appeared during active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations or by Dec. 31, 2021, and be at least 10% disabling. These illnesses include:

  • Certain Rare Lung Cancers - VA conducted a review of scientific and medical evidence and determined there is biological plausibility between airborne hazards and carcinogenesis of the respiratory tract — and the unique circumstances of these rare cancers warrant a presumption of service connection.
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - a condition of long-term and severe fatigue that isn't relieved by rest and is not directly caused by other conditions.
  • Fibromyalgia - a condition characterized by widespread muscle pain. Other symptoms may include insomnia, morning stiffness, headache, and memory problems.
  • Functional gastrointestinal disorders - a group of conditions marked by chronic or recurrent symptoms related to any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Examples include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), functional dyspepsia, and functional abdominal pain syndrome.
  • Undiagnosed illnesses with symptoms 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.

Gulf War Veterans who meet these criteria don't need to prove a connection between their military service and illnesses to get VA disability compensation.

See our Disability Compensation for Presumptive Conditions page for more information.

VA Benefits Related to Gulf War Syndrome

Gulf War Veterans may be eligible for a variety of VA benefits, including a Gulf War Registry health exam, the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, health care, and disability compensation for diseases related to military service. Their dependents and survivors also may be eligible for benefits.

Veterans who served in the Gulf War and suffer from respiratory illnesses may be eligible for special VA healthcare and benefits.

See: Veterans Exposed To Burning Oil Wells And Burn Pits Eligible For Special Program

Research on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses

VA and other researchers continue to conduct research to investigate how service in the Gulf War is linked to illnesses Gulf War Veterans have experienced. Research includes:

  • Multiyear health survey of Gulf War-era Veterans to find out how their health has changed over time
  • Studies by VA's War Related Illness and Injury Study Center

See the VA's Gulf War Illness page for more details.

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