25 Investigates: VA extends timeline for Gulf War Vets to report service-related disability

WASHINGTON — There’s an important update in the fight for veterans’ health care. On Wednesday, the Veterans Administration released a statement saying it has extended the timeline for Gulf War veterans to claim service-related illnesses or disabilities.

Originally, Gulf War vets had until December 31, 2021 to report the disability in order to be awarded benefits. The VA pushed that deadline out by five years to December 31, 2026.

The VA says more than 650,000 service members served in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm from August 2, 1990 to July 31, 1991. As 25 Investigates has been reporting, Gulf War veterans faced several toxic exposures, including particulate matter from burn pits.

The VA is also expanding the number of illnesses considered ‘presumptive’, meaning a veteran would no longer have to prove their sickness or disability was related to their service.

In a statement, the VA said it “presumes certain medically unexplained illnesses are related to Persian Gulf War service without regard to cause, including, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, functional gastrointestinal disorders. Also included are undiagnosed illnesses with symptoms that may include but are not limited to abnormal weight loss, cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain, headache, menstrual disorders, neurological and psychological problems, skin conditions, respiratory disorders and sleep disturbances.”

Legislation is in the works in both the House and Senate to codify these measures and ensure veterans from all Middle East wars receive the benefits they earned in service to their country.