Know the Difference: Burn Pit Claims and The Gulf War Illness

Know the Difference: Burn Pit Claims and The Gulf War Illness

Soldiers returning from the Gulf War and other conflicts in the Middle East have reported a wide range of medical conditions, some of which went unexplained for years. Others are still unexplained. Fortunately for veterans who suffer from one or more of these conditions, there are presumptive service connections for many. 

But, how is “Gulf War Illness” different from burn pit exposure? Who qualifies for veterans disability benefits, for what conditions, and on what basis? Here’s what you need to know about each. 

Presumptive Exposure Based on Location

Exposure to Burn Pits

Since the passage of the PACT Act in 2022, burn pit exposure is presumed for members of the military and veterans who served in certain areas. That means exposure to a wide range of possible toxins and contaminants, ranging from chemicals and ordnance to medical waste. 

This presumption applies to those who served in: 

On or after August 2, 1990: 

  • Bahrain
  • Iraq
  • Kuwait
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Somalia
  • The United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • The airspace over these areas

On or after September 11, 2001: 

  • Afghanistan
  • Djibouti
  • Egypt
  • Jordan
  • Lebanon
  • Syria
  • Uzbekistan
  • Yemen
  • The airspace over these areas

Having served in these areas doesn’t mean a veteran is considered disabled. But, veterans who can demonstrate that they suffer from certain conditions that have been connected with exposure to burn pits may have a presumptive service connection.

Gulf War Illness

Those who served in certain areas on or after August 2, 1990 have a presumptive service connection for certain disabling conditions. These locations, include: 

  • Iraq
  • Kuwait
  • Saudi Arabia
  • The neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia
  • Bahrain
  • Qatar
  • The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.)
  • Oman
  • Afghanistan
  • Israel
  • Egypt
  • Turkey
  • Syria
  • Jordan
  • Gulf of Aden
  • Gulf of Oman
  • Waters of the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea
  • The airspace above these locations

Presumptive Service-Connected Conditions

Burn Pits and Service-Connected Conditions

In addition to establishing presumed exposure, the PACT Act includes a long list of conditions that are presumptively connected for those who served in areas with burn pit exposure. These include: 

  • Asthma diagnosed after service
  • Head cancer of any type
  • Neck cancer of any type
  • Respiratory cancer of any type
  • Gastrointestinal cancer of any type 
  • Reproductive cancer of any type
  • Lymphoma cancer of any type
  • Lymphatic cancer of any type
  • Kidney cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis
  • Emphysema
  • Granulomatous disease
  • Interstitial lung disease
  • Pleuritis
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Chronic rhinitis
  • Glioblastoma

Note that this list includes presumptive conditions only and is not exclusive. 

Gulf War Syndrome

While exposure to burn pits has been connected to certain conditions, Gulf War Illness is a bit more nebulous. Certain conditions and symptoms are presumptively connected to service in the areas listed in the previous section. But, the connection is less clear. The VA “presumes certain chronic, unexplained symptoms existing for 6 months or more are related to Gulf War service without regard to cause.” 

While this list includes a few specific conditions, such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and certain stomach disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome, it also includes many undiagnosed conditions with chronic symptoms. 

Still uncertain? An experienced VA disability benefit advocate can help. Contact us here or call (855) 855-8992 to learn more.

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