VA Benefits for Gulf War Illness and Diseases Caused by Burn Pits (VSO)

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Presenter: Richard Spataro

Length: 93 minutes

Recorded: February 2024


Webinar Description:

Millions of veterans who served in the Middle East and other locations in Asia and Africa since 1990 were exposed to burn pits and other toxins. Many of them now suffer from diseases caused by that exposure. Luckily, there are special rules that make it easier for these veterans to obtain VA compensation for those disabilities. One set of rules was recently established by the PACT Act and provides presumptions of service connection for disabilities linked to burn pits. Another set of rules was established nearly 30 years ago and provides presumptions of service connection for disabilities collectively known as “Gulf War Illness.” Both sets of rules present challenges.

VSOs and VA adjudicators alike are still learning the nuances of the rules for claims involving burn pit exposure, including who qualifies for the presumptions, what diseases are covered, and how to determine the correct effective date for benefits. The Gulf War Illness presumptions have changed several times, including most recently under the PACT Act, and have been the subject of a number of important court decisions. They are often misunderstood by VSOs and misapplied or ignored by VA adjudicators. It is important for VSOs to understand these different rules, so that they can properly advise veterans when to file claims based on the presumptions and identify erroneous VA denials of such claims.

In this webinar, we will cover the following topics and more:

  • Who qualifies as a “Persian Gulf War Veteran” for purposes of the Gulf War Illness presumptions and who qualifies as a “Covered Veteran” for purposes of the burn pit presumptions
  • What disabilities qualify for presumptive service connection as a Gulf War Illness, including undiagnosed illnesses and medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illnesses (MUCMIs), and as a burn pit-related disease
  • How to determine if a disease not specifically listed as a MUCMI in VA regulations should be considered a MUCMI
  • How to support claims for service connection for an undiagnosed illness
  • How to support claims involving diseases not presumptively linked to toxic exposure, including VA’s duty to assist and tips for establishing direct service connection
  • Common errors the VA makes when adjudicating Gulf War Illness claims and burn pit claims