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    This is the most recent set of presumptive illnesses that have been approved for Gulf War Veterans. (Including K2 Veterans). You can read the VA Press Release here.

    Eligibility extends to any veteran who served on “active military, naval, or air service in the Southwest Asia theater of operations during the Persian Gulf War (hereafter Gulf War) [from August 02, 1990 to the present], as well as in Afghanistan, Syria, Djibouti, or Uzbekistan, on or after September 19, 2001, during the Gulf War.”1

    1 VA, Presumptive Service Connection for Respiratory Conditions Due to Exposure to Particulate Matter, 86 FR 42724

    https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/08/05/2021-16693/presumptive-service-connection-for-respiratory-conditions-due-to-exposure-to-particulate-matter#print

    Yes. 

    "Based on these findings regarding particulate matter exposure at the K-2 Air Base, VA will presume PM2.5 exposure for those service members who were deployed to Uzbekistan on or after September 19, 2001. VA acknowledges that this will cover a greater geographic area and time frame than the other studies annotated in this document. However, VA believes this is a veteran-centric approach that will enhance its operational efficiencies by simplifying the work necessary for claims adjudication."

    https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2021-16693/p-56

    The overall goal of creating lists of “presumptive illnesses” (or “presumptive conditions”) is to try to ease the burden of proof and make it easier for veterans to file claims for the benefits they deserve. When a veteran files a claim with the VA and seeks to establish a “service-connected” disability, normally the veteran must show three things: (1) evidence of an in-service event, (2) evidence of a current disability, and (3) evidence that the two are linked (sometimes a “nexus” letter is used to establish this link if the evidence is not readily apparent).

     

    Sometimes it is difficult to establish the “link” between the in-service event and the current disability. For instance, Vietnam veterans had great difficulty establishing service-connection for conditions they developed many years after active-duty exposure to an herbicide called “Agent Orange.” Many of these veterans began to develop many of the same sorts of conditions that science was able to link to their exposure to the herbicide. Congress and the VA eventually recognized that these conditions were at the very least very likely related to Vietnam veterans’ exposure to Agent Orange. The VA created a list of “presumptive illnesses” (or “presumptive conditions”) for Vietnam veterans who were exposed to the herbicide. These veterans did not have to go through the normal process of establishing the “link” between the in-service event and their current illness to win their VA claims. The VA conceded that the in-service event had occurred and simply “presumed” that the veterans’ conditions were service-connected.

     

    Now, Congress and the VA have recognized that many veterans stationed throughout Asia have experienced similar issues. In response, the VA has created a list of “presumptive conditions” for veterans who have served in various areas of operation. This eases the burden for the veteran in establishing service-connection. As with Vietnam veterans experiencing Agent Orange exposure, the VA has conceded that in-service events have occurred in Asia.

    Not every situation involving “presumptive conditions” will be identical. Criteria will be unique to each situation even within situations involving presumptive conditions in Asia. There are a few other presumptive condition lists, but the three that will apply most to those with military service since 1990 include the following (please see the other documents if those presumptive condition lists apply to you as well):

    VA Presumptive Illnesses: Chronic Diseases Diagnosed After Discharge: for all service members;

    VA Presumptive Illnesses: Gulf War Veterans: if you served 02 August 1990 to present: Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the neutral zone between Saudi Arabia and Iraq, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Gulfs of Aden and Oman; water of the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea; and airspace above these locations; 2003—2010: OIF; 2010—11: OND.

    VA Presumptive Illnesses: Respiratory Conditions: The rest of this document is about this category.

    The ruling establishes three new presumptive illnesses for certain veterans: asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis, to include rhinosinusitis.

    Asthma: “Asthma is a condition in which your airways narrow and swell and may produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, a whistling sound (wheezing) when you breathe out and shortness of breath” (Mayo Clinic).

    Rhinitis: “Nonallergic rhinitis involves chronic sneezing or a congested, drippy nose with no apparent cause. Nonallergic rhinitis symptoms are similar to those of hay fever (allergic rhinitis), but with none of the usual evidence of an allergic reaction” (Mayo Clinic).

    Sinusitis: “Chronic sinusitis occurs when the spaces inside your nose and head (sinuses) are swollen and inflamed for three months or longer, despite treatment. This common condition interferes with the way mucus normally drains and makes your nose stuffy. Breathing through your nose may be difficult, and the area around your eyes might feel swollen or tender” (Mayo Clinic).

    A veteran doesn’t have to have been specifically diagnosed with these three particular illnesses. There is not a disability rating for every condition, therefore, the VA will often use the rating criteria for a condition that is the most similar. This is called rating a condition “analogously.” In this instance, the VA found that Gulf War veterans had high rates of “chronic persistent cough, shortness of breath (dyspnea), and wheezing.”1 Since there are no VA ratings for those three conditions, the VA is “analogously” using the criteria for asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis (to include rhinosinusitis) to rate those respiratory conditions. The following terms are associated with the respiratory presumptive illnesses (this is not an exhaustive list):

    Narrow Airway
    Swelling Airway
    Cough
    Excess Mucus Production
    Wheezing
    Shortness of Breath
    Difficulty Breathing
    Chronic Sneezing
    Hoarseness
    Congestion
    Runny Nose
    Swollen Sinuses
    Inflamed Sinuses
    Stuffy Nose
    Reactive Airway Disease

    The regulation states that the condition(s) must manifest “within 10 years after separation from the last period of military service that includes a qualifying period of service.”1 That period of service must include a “qualifying period of service” which is service in one of the theaters of operation listed in question #2 (Who Is Eligible?). Your symptoms must manifest within 10 years of discharge from the military, not necessarily within 10 years from your time spent in the Asian theater of operation.

    “…VA will not require that the chronic respiratory conditions of asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis, to include rhinosinusitis, manifest to a compensable degree or more so that more Gulf War Veterans can meet the lower eligibility criteria for presumptive service connection for exposure to fine, particulate matter even at a non-compensable level…”1 This means the symptoms can be at the 0% rating level.

    There is no minimum time limit.

    The new regulation will automatically apply to any claim that is pending on August 5, 2021, before the VA, the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, or the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

    No.

    If you previously filed a claim for one of these conditions and it was denied, and the claim is now in a closed, final status, you will need to file a new claim.

     At first glance, these ratings may not seem helpful at all. A 0% rating for a runny nose? A 0% sinusitis rating? If you are a Gulf War veteran, think of this as a stepping-stone to the disability ratings with which you’ve been having difficulty.

     

    First, many Gulf War veterans have respiratory issues they are having trouble getting service-connected. If you can get one of these respiratory presumptive illnesses service-connected, even at 0%, it increases your chances of winning all kinds of secondary claims. For example, you can file your Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) as a secondary claim to your newly-established respiratory presumptive illness.

     

    Second, in the interim final rule, the phrase “VA is establishing a presumption of exposure to fine, particulate matter” (PM2.5) is found numerous times. It will be interesting to keep an eye on this and see if veterans are able to use this presumption for disability claims beyond the presumptive conditions of asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis.

    Keep in mind that your respiratory illness can in no way be caused by anything (e.g., seasonal allergies) that would rule out the presumption of exposure to fine, particulate matter. If a doctor concludes that your asthma or rhinitis or sinusitis is due to an allergy of some sort, you will not be service-connected for your respiratory condition. The interim final rule makes this very clear.

    However, it is possible to have a presumptive respiratory illness, as well as allergies. The VA can and should rate a veteran on this basis.

    In addition, it is possible to have asthma or reactive airway condition caused by fine, particulate matter that can also be exacerbated by allergies. The VA can and should rate a veteran on this basis as well.

    Any veteran is eligible. Specific criteria are noted below.

    The overall goal of creating lists of “presumptive illnesses” (or “presumptive conditions”) is to try to ease the burden of proof and make it easier for veterans to file claims for the benefits they deserve. When a veteran files a claim with the VA and seeks to establish a “service-connected” disability, normally the veteran must show three things: (1) evidence of an in-service event, (2) evidence of a current disability, and (3) evidence that the two are linked (sometimes a “nexus” letter is used to establish this link if the evidence is not readily apparent).

     

    Sometimes it is difficult to establish the “link” between the in-service event and the current disability. For instance, Vietnam veterans had great difficulty establishing service-connection for conditions they developed many years after active duty exposure to an herbicide called “Agent Orange.” Many of these veterans began to develop many of the same sorts of conditions that science was able to link to their exposure to the herbicide. Congress and the VA eventually recognized that these conditions were at the very least very likely related to Vietnam veterans’ exposure to Agent Orange. The VA created a list of “presumptive illnesses” (or “presumptive conditions”) for Vietnam veterans who were exposed to the herbicide. These veterans did not have to go through the normal process of establishing the “link” between the in-service event and their current illness in order to win their VA claims. The VA conceded that the in-service event had occurred and simply “presumed” that the veterans’ conditions were service-connected.

    In general, the symptoms must manifest to the same extent as the criteria listed for a VA rating of 10% disability within the first year after discharge. Exceptions are noted below.

    The Blood

    Anemia, codes 7716 7717-7718 7719 7720 7721 7722 7723
    Hodgkin’s disease, code 7709
    Leukemia, code 7703
    Thrombocytopenia, code 7705

    Cardiovascular System
    Arteriosclerosis, code 7005
    Hypertension, code 7101
    Endocarditis, code 7001
    Valvular heart disease, code 7000
    Raynaud’s syndrome, code 7117
    Buerger’s disease, code 7115

    Digestive System
    Gallstones, code 7314
    Cirrhosis of the liver, code 7312
    Gastric ulcer, code 7304
    Duodenal ulcer, code 7305

    Endocrine System
    Diabetes, code 7913
    Diseases of the thyroid 7900 7901 7902 7903 7906 parathyroid  7904 7905 pituitary 7916 or adrenal glands

    Genitourinary System
    Calculus of the bladder, code 7515
    Kidney stones, code 7508
    Nephrosclerosis, code 7507
    Nephritis, code 7502 (Rated as “Renal Disfunction”)

    Infectious or Immune Diseases
    Hansen’s disease (Leprosy), code 6302 (must manifest to 10% within 3 years)
    Lupus, code 6350
    Tuberculosis (must manifest to 10% within 3 years)

     

    Mental Disorders
    Read more about rating for mental disorders

    Read more about presumptive eligibility for psychosis and mental illness other than psychosis

    Musculoskeletal System
    Arthritis, degenerative, code 5003, or systemic, code 5002
    Osteitis deformans (Paget’s disease), code 5016
    Osteomalacia, code 5014

    Nervous System
    Progressive Muscular Atrophy, code 8023
    Brain hemorrhage, code 8009
    Brain thrombosis, code 8008
    Encephalitis, code 8000
    Epilepsy 8910 8911
    Myasthenia gravis, code 8025
    Myelitis, code 8010
    Bulbar palsy, code 8005
    Parkinson’s disease, code 8004
    Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), code 8017 (this condition will qualify at any time after
                discharge unless it is a result of misconduct)
    Multiple Sclerosis, code 8018 (must manifest to 10% within 7 years)
    Syringomyelia, code 8024
    Malignant cancer of the brain, code 8002
    Malignant cancer of the spinal cord, code 8021
    Malignant cancer of the nerves, code 8540
    Any other “organic” Nervous System Diseases, like Huntington’s Disease or Athetosis are rated under Chorea 8105

    Respiratory System
    Bronchiectasis, code 6601
    Coccidioidomycosis, code 6835
    Sarcoidosis, code 6846

    The Skin
    Collagen-vascular disease, code 7821