Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders/IBS Considered Presumptive Service-Connected Disabilities for U.S. Gulf War Veterans

UPDATE: These regulations have since been expanded to veterans with service in Afghanistan at any time since September 19, 2001.

Next week, on August 15, updated regulations go into effect at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), recognizing functional gastrointestinal disorders as disabilities with “presumptive” service connection for any member of the U.S. military who has served in various countries in the Persian Gulf/Southwest Asia region since August 2, 1990. IBS is specifically mentioned. However, according to the Federal Register, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is considered structural, not functional, and it is specifically excluded in these regulations.

Functional gastrointestinal disorders are being added to a list of other “medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illnesses” that have been similarly classified, including fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, two non-GI disorders that commonly overlap with IBS.

What this means is that a functional gastrointestinal disorder, such as IBS, diagnosed in a veteran who served in this region during the stated time period and rated by the VA as at least a 10% disability will automatically be assumed to be related to his or her military service. This is very good news for people who qualify because, in most cases, in order to claim VA disability compensation, a veteran must prove that the disability is service-connected. Claims based on presumptive conditions do not require as high a standard of proof as other conditions. Please note that these regulations apply only to VA disability compensation, not other disability benefits administered by different systems, such as Social Security.

IFFGD reports that two recent studies have shown that active duty service members and veterans are disproportionately affected by functional gastrointestinal disorders like IBS because of chronic stress and high risk of exposure to gastrointestinal infections during deployment. IFFGD has testified before the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee about adding functional gastrointestinal disorders to the list of eligible conditions for the Department of Defense Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program fiscal 2012 budget and is asking the functional gastrointestinal community to support this effort. For U.S. citizens who are interested in doing so, please see IFFGD’s action alert here.

These developments appear to be very positive and concrete progress for the many U.S. service members and veterans struggling with IBS and related disorders. It is a large step forward in the recognition of these often misunderstood and trivialized conditions as legitimate and potentially disabling. IBS Impact hopes that civilian entities in the U.S. and other countries will look to this example and follow suit in the not too distant future.

3 Responses to Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders/IBS Considered Presumptive Service-Connected Disabilities for U.S. Gulf War Veterans

  1. Tom Trefts says:

    Is there a database for the often ignored servicemen and women who served in support areas overseas and had their overseas vaccinations + cleaned aircraft, vehicles and equipment that came back from the Gulf. I cleaned A-10s along with many others without gloves along with sandblasting other equipment. I have all of the signs of Gulf War Illness including IBS, fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, chronic fatigue , cracked teeth, chronic fatigue, cardiovascular disease, diagnosed memory loss and psychological issues. Why are people outside the magical circle being ignored? Plausable deniability? The Gulf War Illness concept is inherently flawed by its own limitations. Is the government waiting for most of us to die off like the Vietnam Era Veterans before grudgingly granting benifits. Silly,isn’t it. The inteligensia needs to get thier collective heads out of the sand and take a more comprehensive view of this serious medical condition. Now, I have to go take my medicine.
    Thomas W Trefts
    10Th CRS
    RAF Alconbury 1989-1991
    Unified Veterans Coalition Director
    ttrefts@gmail.com

  2. lambda5555m says:

    Glad that this was added. My IBS has gotten so bad I am almost housebound. If I go anywhere I can’t eat anything unless I want to stop a couple of times or I get stuck somewhere until the bouts are over. I hope there are some other presumptives that they can add to the list.

  3. chris bass says:

    the presumptive connection should not be limited by time or location. the presumption also includes the fact that many vets like me had hepatitis or other disease which lead to the creation of IBS inflamatory bowel disease chrons all which i am diagnosed wit within 4 years of discharge by the VA medicalcenterin white river vermont
    i had gastrointeisitis all thru the service and hepatitis and a fullbody yeast infection cause by malnutrition i was stationed in spain and 14 of us came down with hepatitis all the same time period.all from the same ship.The USS holland as 32.
    in 1971 the conditions in spain sucked and when you ate in town you took a huge risk but we were warned of this How did all of us get it at the same time?itsa radioactive ship and some of us suffered hair loss,and our hair was cut off. was it hepatitis or radiation poisoning?? we will never know radiation poisoning is top secret.
    The presumptive statement by the va allows that i f i had hepatitis i could have gotten IBS and other diseases from it.
    the problem is the va limited us to 1990 not 20 years prior when conditions were worse everywhere And Vietnam vets were excluded and were often stuck drinking water from swamps and such,and no doubt had these diseases too i find the VA decision to descriminate against all other veterans who had these bowel diseases as though only gulf war vets could have gotten the diseases.
    anyone who traveled thru out spain knew the terrible conditions there .clear cut case of descrimination to save the VA and government money. excluding the rest of us
    i was just denied connection for damage to my spine arthritis related to the spine damage bowel diseases and ptsd and i had a nervous break down in service due to conditions i was forced to live with.
    The VA is our enemy no doubt about it

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