If your VA disability claim for Gulf War Syndrome is being handled by one of the 6 Regional Offices listed at the bottom of this article, then your claim has most likely been improperly reviewed and rated.
In a recent GAO investigation, it was found that the VA Regional Office in Waco, Texas was 4th in the Nation in denying Gulf War Syndrome/Illness type claims and the Muskogee, Oklahoma Regional Office was 2nd highest, just behind the Roanoke Regional Office. Being in the top 6 is a dubious honor which should have every veteran in these Regional Offices very concerned about their Gulf War Syndrome claim.
The VA estimates that 44% of the 700,000+ service members who served in the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War have developed symptoms as joint pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, breathing disorders, sleep disorders, and neurological problems after returning from the Gulf War. The illnesses are thought to have been caused by exposure to toxic elements like smoke from burning oil wells, depleted uranium and chemical warfare agents such as mustard gas. “Burn Pits” are another possible source of exposure.
While the VA denies roughly 87% of all Gulf War Syndrome claims Nationwide, the Waco Regional Office is denying 92% of these claims. The recent investigation has found that poor training and inconsistent claims handling is partly to blame for the huge denial rate. A lack of a medical opinion relating alleged Gulf War Syndrome problems is also a leading cause of continued denials.
There is no doubt but that Gulf War Illnesses/Syndromes are hard to prove. There is not usually a distinctive set of symptoms that will allow a medical provider to make an reliable diagnosis. That is why these claims are called “Medically Unexplained Chronic Multisymptom Illness” or “Undiagnosed Illness”.
GAO found that the VA does a piss poor job educating examiners and raters about how to identify the illnesses. Several VA staff noted the complexity of Gulf War illness claims and some medical examiners stated they would benefit from additional training on Gulf War illness and how to conduct these exams. In response to the GAO report, the VA said it would make the web training mandatory and hopes to get examiners trained by November.
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., a member of the House Veterans subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, noted the discrepancy in the number of Gulf War veterans with successful claims. While an estimated 44 percent of service members developed Gulf War illness symptoms, only 26 percent receive benefits. “Something does not add up,” he said.
The six VA benefits offices that handled at least 1,000 Gulf War-related claims in 2015 (which is the most recent year for statistics) and their denial rates for veterans filing VA Disability claims for Gulf War Illnesses/Syndrome. The national average was 87%.
• Roanoke, Va.: 95% (of 2,124 total claims)
• Muskogee, Okla.: 94% (2,431)
• Atlanta: 93% (1,339)
• Waco: 92% (1,088)
• Columbia, S.C.: 90% (1,130)
• Nashville, Tenn.: 83% (1,763)