(DoD photo)

VA extends Gulf War filing deadline

The Department of Veterans Affairs has extended the presumptive period for Persian Gulf War veterans to file claims for undiagnosed illnesses. The new deadline is Dec. 31, 2016.

About 700,000 troops deployed overseas in 1990-1991 in support of operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Of this number, VA estimates that 25-35 percent have undiagnosed and chronic multi-symptom illnesses, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and concentration problems.

Verna Jones, director of The American Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division, said that VA’s decision to extend the presumptive period for Gulf War veterans is most welcome. “But we want Congress to give these veterans an indefinite extension," she said. "Many of them were exposed to hazardous environments that may still cause illness in the future. Their opportunity to file VA disability claims should not be tied to a specific date.”

Jacob Gadd, the Legion’s deputy director for health care, said that research continues to be conducted on the environmental exposure of Gulf War veterans. “The causes and symptoms of several illnesses these veterans suffer from are still poorly understood. We need more long-term studies.”

Last year, The American Legion passed a resolution (http://www.legion.org/documents/resolutions/2010N099.pdf) that urged Congress to reinstate and extend indefinitely the presumptive period of service connection for Gulf War veterans with undiagnosed illnesses.

The American Legion encourages Gulf War veterans to contact one of its department service officers (http://www.legion.org/veteransbenefits/departmentofficers) for assistance in filing a VA claim for any potential injury or illness relating to their service.

Veterans who served in the Persian Gulf War between Aug. 2, 1990 and Nov. 11, 1998 are eligible to apply for enrollment in Priority Group 6 of VA’s health-care system. VA is conducting a comprehensive Gulf War Examination Registry to evaluate any long-term health problems relating to environmental exposure.

For more information, contact the Legion’s Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division at var@legion.org, or go to VA’s Gulf War Illnesses website (http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/gulfwar/).