Beginning in 1994, Congress implemented a statutory provision, 38 U.S.C. 1117, for a presumption of service connection for undiagnosed chronic multi-symptom illnesses for veterans who served in the Southwest Area theater of operations during the Persian Gulf War. Because the Persian Gulf War is still considered a statutorily defined period of war, 38 U.S.C. 1117 applies to more recent veterans with service in Southwest Area (the area is further defined by regulation). Congress amended 38 U.S.C. 1117 in 2001 and the current definition of “chronic disability” includes: (1) an undiagnosed illness; (2) a medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illness (such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome) that is defined by a cluster of sings and symptoms; or (3) any diagnosed illness that the DVA Secretary determines warrants a presumption of service connection.
From the standpoint of timeline, in order to be entitled to the presumption of service connection, the covered condition must have must have manifested in during service in Southwest Asia or to a ten percent (or more) disability rating during the time following service as defined by the Department of Veterans Affairs through regulation.
The DVA has implemented 38 U.S.C. 1117 in regulation through 38 C.F.R. 3.317. Over the years, the DVA has extended the period of time for the presumptive period on numerous occasions as the DVA and the National Academy of Sciences continued to evaluate and conduct studies regarding exposure in the Persian Gulf and conditions related to that exposure. There was a sunset date in 38 C.F.R. 3.317(a)(i) for the presumptive period of December 31, 2016.
As evidenced in the hyperlinked Final Rule below, on October 17, 2016, the DVA extended the presumptive period to December 31, 2021 by amending Section 3.317(a)(1). A link to the regulatory amendment can be found at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-10-17/pdf/2016-25017.pdf
The rules regarding the presumption for service connection for Persian Gulf War veterans have remained a subject of much confusion over the years. If you have questions regarding 38 U.S.C. 1117; 38 C.F.R. 3.317, please do not hesitate to contact me at (732) 382-6070 or via email at sdirector@FRE-L.com