Gulf War Syndrome, Often Caused by Environment, Warrants SSDI

July 9, 2013

Many veterans from the Gulf War, along with those recently returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have long suspected that their litany of ongoing physical ailments - often debilitating - can be traced back to environmental toxins during their service in the desert region.
Our Los Angeles Social Security Disability Insurance lawyers know that this theory hasn't always gained much support from the government, insurance companies or even the medical community. However, that's beginning to change, with particular attitude shifts noted among environmental health researchers and some doctors.

There are now suspicions that American soldiers were and probably still are being exposed unnecessarily to environments that are heavily-contaminated while overseas. Even when these individuals aren't engaged directly in heavy combat, servicemen and women are living and working in conditions that may not kill them immediately, but can certainly be debilitating and even deadly in the long-term.

Many are in places where they regularly confront huge clouds of dust that are filled with toxic metals, viruses and bacteria. They are surrounded by smoke plumes that rise from burn pits, which are a common tactic in the military to dispose of plastic bottles, feces and other solid wastes. These burns are done in open pits and often with the use of jet fuel. Most of the time, nearby servicemen and women aren't given any masks or other very basic precautions to protect their eyes, skin, throat and lungs.

What's more, dust storms in the Middle East, already particularly brutal on the human respiratory system, have worsened since military activity began there during the Gulf War. In fact, studies have shown that military activity, which disturbs the thin crust of sand that naturally covers the desert landscape, increases the likelihood of dust storms by five times. The yearly number of dust storms has indeed risen since the Gulf War, weather researchers say.

Within those dust clouds are contaminants such as fungi, viruses, bacteria and even metals such as titanium and other toxins.

Gulf War Syndrome refers to a wide range of either acute and/or chronic symptoms that are commonly found among soldiers returning from the desert region. Those include muscle pain, cognitive issues, rashes, fatigue, post-traumatic stress disorder, heart trouble and breathing problems. About 250,000 of the approximately 700,000 veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War are afflicted with some form of Gulf War Syndrome.

Stateside, doctors have noted a shift in their clientele in recent years, It used to be mostly older, overweight clientele. Today, many places are seeing large numbers of apparently healthy 20-to-40-year-olds, non-smokers, returning from war with high rates of respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological disorders. In fact, these have risen, 47 percent, 34 percent and 251 percent, respectively, according to a recent analysis of military morbidity records supplied from 2001 to 2010.

Still, connecting any one disease to a particular exposure has been tough. This is why many veterans might have an especially tough time securing benefits from the Department of Veterans' Affairs. Thankfully, the qualifications for Social Security Disability Insurance are less rigorous with regard to what caused the condition. All that must be proven is that the condition is debilitating. What's more, collection of SSDI benefits won't affect one's ability to also be awarded VA benefits, or visa versa.

While there is no SSA disability listing for Gulf War Syndrome, many veterans qualify for benefits on the basis of their individual condition. While it certainly doesn't hurt to mention your prior military service and evaluations indicating your condition may be connected to your time on duty, it isn't necessary to prove definitively that your illness was caused by your service in order to obtain SSDI benefits.

Los Angeles Disability Benefits Attorney VINCENT HOWARD at HOWARD LAW can help. Call toll-free at 1-800-872-5925 or send us a message online.

Additional Resources:
Gulf War Syndrome, Other Illnesses Among Veterans May Be Due To Toxic Environments, Feb. 7, 2013, By Lynne Peeples, The Huffington Post

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