Gulf War Vets Have Special Needs

Veterans of the first Gulf War are defined by the Department of Veterans Affairs as men and women who served in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and other countries in the Persian Gulf. Approximately 697,000 troops were deployed to the region in the years 1990-1991.

Gulf War vets have many of the same issues and disabilities as veterans of other wars. In addition, they frequently experience problems that are unique to military personnel who fought in the region. In particular, Gulf War vets are affected by a medically unexplained illness popularly called Gulf War Syndrome. Symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome can include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders, and memory problems.

Despite the frequent use of the phrase Gulf War Syndrome in civilian media, the VA prefers not to use that term and uses phrases such as "undiagnosed illness" and medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illnesses." Because the symptoms of the illness vary enormously from vet to vet, the condition does not fit the formal definition of the term "syndrome," according to the VA.

Presumptive Gulf War Conditions

The VA presumes that certain chronic illnesses that persist for more than six months in this cohort of veterans are related to service in the Gulf region. They include:

• Chronic fatigue syndrome

• Fibromyalgia

• Gastrointestinal disorders

• Undiagnosed illness that includes symptoms such as abnormal weight loss, fatigue, cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain, headache, menstrual disorders, neurological and psychological problems, skin conditions, respiratory disorders and sleep disturbances, popularly called Gulf War Syndrome

• Infectious diseases that include malaria, brucellosis, campylobacter jejuni, Q fever, mycobacterium tuberculosis, non-typhoid salmonella, shigella, visceral leishmaniasis, and West Nile virus

• Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

The VA continues to conduct research into these and other conditions associated with service in the Gulf War during 1990-1991. Of particular interest is the source of so-called Gulf War Syndrome, and numerous causes have been suggested.

Possible Causes of Gulf War Syndrome

Possible causes of this medically elusive illness include:

• Vaccinations, especially vaccinations for anthrax and botulism

• Oil well fires, petroleum and smoke

• Pesticides

• Pyridostigmine bromide, used as a re-treatment against militarized nerve agents

• Biological and chemical weapons

• Sand, dust and particles

• Depleted uranium

• Toxic embedded fragments (shrapnel)

• Noise

•Occupational hazards, such as chemicals, paint and machinery


The VA continues to study issues arising from service in this war. One thing is certain, however: Many of the illnesses and conditions specific to veterans of the Gulf War are both mysterious and debilitating. A VA-accredited claims agent from The Rep For Vets® can help.