VA extends deadlines for undiagnosed Gulf War illnesses

WASHINGTON — Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs extended the deadline Thursday for Iraq veterans with unexplained illnesses to qualify for compensation and survivor benefits, pushing back the deadline to the end of 2016.

That deadline was set to expire Saturday. The move covers veterans from either the just-completed Iraq War or the 1990-1991 Gulf War who have clear service-related illnesses but not a clearly defined diagnosis.

Congress put the rule in place 1994 in response to reports of Gulf War Illness, a set of mysterious and crippling medical symptoms for which experts still have not found a unifying link. The move ensured that veterans would receive disability payments and access to other VA programs while department researchers continued to investigate the cause of the problems. The deadline has been extended by VA officials several times since then

The policy covers, among other ailments, a host of unexplained skin disorders, neurologic symptoms, respiratory issues and other chronic pain problems experienced by troops who served in the more recent Iraq conflict.

Bradley Flohr, VA assistant director for compensation policy, said the decision to extend the deadline again came because of the continued mysteries surrounding illnesses from both conflicts, and the continued desire to make sure those veterans are cared for.

Veterans or survivors who believe they qualify for these benefits can contact VA at 1-800-827-1000. Further information about undiagnosed illnesses is available online.

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