Kuwait Oil Fires
Oil well fires blaze out of control outside Kuwait City on March 23, 1991, during the Gulf War. Some U.S. Soldiers may have suffered undiagnosed illnesses as a result of the fires.

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 29, 2011) -- Veterans of the Persian Gulf War with undiagnosed illnesses have an additional five years to qualify for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"Not all the wounds of war are fully understood," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "When there is uncertainty about the connection between a medical problem and military service, veterans are entitled to the benefit of the doubt."

A recent change in VA regulations affects veterans of the conflict in Southwest Asia. Many have attributed a range of undiagnosed or poorly understood medical problems to their military services. Chemical weapons, environmental hazards and vaccinations are among the possible causes.

For VA benefit purposes, Gulf War Veterans are defined as those who served on active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations any time during the first Gulf War starting Aug. 2, 1990, through the Iraq War and subsequent reduced operations in Iraq. Military operations include Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and New Dawn.

At issue is the eligibility of veterans to claim VA disability compensation based upon those undiagnosed illnesses, and the ability of survivors to qualify for VA's Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.

Under long-standing VA rules, any undiagnosed illnesses used to establish eligibility for VA benefits must become apparent by Dec. 31, 2011. The new change pushes the date back to Dec. 31, 2016.

Veterans or survivors who believe they qualify for these benefits should contact VA at 1-800-827-1000.

Page last updated Thu December 29th, 2011 at 00:00