Medically unexplained illnesses, also known as chronic multi-symptom illnesses and undiagnosed illnesses refer to a cluster of chronic symptoms with no apparent cause or explanation that manifest in veterans who served in active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations during the first Gulf War.
Originally, the symptom cluster was referred to as Gulf War Syndrome, but because symptoms vary significantly from case to case, the VA has updated the terminology.
Symptoms of a medically unexplained illness may include (but are in no means limited to any of the listed symptoms persisting for six months or more) the following:
- Muscle and joint pain
- Respiratory disorders
- Memory problems
Illnesses can include:
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which involves long-term, intense physical exhaustion that hasn’t been triggered by any known cause and can’t be alleviated through rest.
- Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, involving chronic or recurrent symptoms in the GI tract with no discernable changes to the involved tissues. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, functional dyspepsia, and functional abdominal pain syndrome can all fall under this category.
- Fibromyalgia, which involves widespread muscle pain, stiffness, headache, sleeplessness and memory problems.
- Undiagnosed illnesses, presenting a group of chronic symptoms with no clear cause. Symptoms might include abnormal weight loss, muscle and joint pain, menstrual disorders, neurological problems, skin conditions, sleep disturbances, respiratory disorders, and cardiovascular diseases.
Diagnoses of medically unexplained illnesses are often difficult because science hasn’t found a way to detect signs of these conditions through medical tests. However, the VA has been working with several other agencies in the hopes of finding a connection between service in the first Gulf War and medically unexplained illnesses.
VA Disability Benefits for Chronic Multi-Symptom Illnesses
If you began to demonstrate symptoms of this nature for six months or more at any time between active duty in the first Gulf War and December 31st, 2016, you may be able to obtain VA disability benefits such as disability compensation and healthcare. Your condition cannot be explained by another cause and will need to be at least 10% disabling.
Diagnosing a medically unexplained illness in order to obtain VA disability benefits can be extremely challenging. If you’re ready for some guidance, talk to a dedicated Texas VA disability attorney at Morgan & Weisbrod today. Contact us toll-free at 877-898-1581or through the online form.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.