A law was written some time ago that provided extra protection for veterans from the Persian Gulf War. The basic purpose of the law was to ensure that veterans were able to apply for health care and other benefits for the decades following their time in combat. Sometimes health conditions are caused by circumstances while in a war zone, but do not manifest until many years later. This law was to ensure that if this was the case, these veterans were still able to receive benefits and compensation.
This law expires on September 30, 2011. The VA apparently received a lot of concern from Gulf War veterans. Like all laws, there is a bit of ambiguity in the wording of the expiration date. What this date does mean is that some protections that were offered to Gulf War veterans may no longer be in effect. Also, prior to September 30, 2011, if any scientific report was published that had studied specific effects of service in the Southwest Asian theater, the VA was required to assess and respond to the report. There is no longer a requirement to publish a response. Don’t be discouraged though, the scientific and medical community will continue to read and incorporate new knowledge. That’s the whole reason they spend so much money studying this stuff!
What this date does not mean is a benefits termination. No Gulf War veteran who is currently receiving benefits will have those benefits terminated. (Sometimes veterans are determined to be in recovery, or have recovered to a great enough degree that the VA warrants a reduction in benefits. This is not the same thing, and can still happen.) Additionally, Gulf War veterans are still able to apply for benefits when service related conditions are discovered.
Ok, so, what does all this really mean for the average Gulf War veteran? Not a thing. You will continue to received your benefits, and veterans will continue to be able to apply. So why did I bother writing a post about this? Well, because the wording on the law is strange and I wanted to assure our community that they aren’t in any danger of having their benefits terminated.
There is one important date that Gulf War veterans do need to know about. Initially, the VA determined that if a condition that was shown to be connected to Gulf War service (aka, presumed exposure) did not manifest by December 31, 2011, then it was more likely that the condition was due to other circumstances. The VA is currently addressing this date, and has drafted a new version of this rule, to state an expiration date for presumed exposure of 2018. What does this date mean for Gulf War veterans? If you, or another veteran who fought in the Gulf War, has begun to develop any health conditions related to your time in service, you may eventually run out of time to submit your claim as a presumed exposure health problem. When the rule becomes finalized, you will have a few more years to submit a claim, but sooner is definitely better.
Read the original VA Press release on this subject here.
Photo thanks to VA Comm under creative commons license on Flickr.