VA Publishes Final Regulation on “Presumptive” Illnesses for Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans

Today, a final regulation was published in the Federal Register (75 FR 59968 ) making it easier for veterans to obtain health care and disability compensation benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for diseases associated with military service in Southwest Asia (including Iraq) or Afghanistan.

The final regulation establishes new presumptions of service-connection for nine infectious diseases associated with military service in Southwest Asia beginning on or after the start of the first Gulf War on Aug. 2, 1990, through the conflict in Iraq and on or after Sept. 19, 2001, in Afghanistan.

The final regulation reflects the VA’s conclusion that a positive association exists between military service in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan and the following nine diseases: Brucellosis, Campylobacter jejuni, Coxiella Burnetii (Q fever), Malaria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Nontyphoid Salmonella, Shigella, Visceral leishmaniasis and West Nile virus.

With the final rule, a veteran will only have to show that he or she served in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan, that the veteran had one of the nine diseases within a certain time after service and that the veteran has a current disability as a result of that disease in order to establish eligibility for VA compensation and health benefits. For non-presumptive medical conditions, a veteran is required to provide medical evidence to establish an actual connection between military service in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan and a specific disease.

Disability compensation is a non-taxable monetary benefit paid to veterans who are disabled as a result of an injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated during active military service. In 2009, VA received more than one million claims for disability compensation and pension.  VA provides compensation and pension benefits to over 3.8 million veterans and beneficiaries.  Currently, the basic monthly rate of compensation ranges from $123 to $2,673 for veterans without any dependents.