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April 22, 2022

How to Service-Connect Your Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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If you are one of the many veterans who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, you know how difficult it can be to live with this condition. One of the first steps towards getting treatment is to service-connect your chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and provide evidence to the Department of Veteran Affairs to receive benefits, or reach out to your own provider to seek treatment, receive a diagnosis, and gather medical evidence to claim for service-connection.

In this blog post, we will discuss what chronic fatigue syndrome is, its symptoms, and how to go about getting a service-connection for this condition.

Getting service connection from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 2

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What Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complex, multisymptom, debilitating illness characterized by physical and mental manifestations. It is a unique condition that simply cannot be justified under any prevailing medical condition. The condition can be even more difficult to manage if you are a veteran. The fatigue is often accompanied by other severe symptoms such as insomnia, muscle pain, and brain fog.

Veterans with chronic fatigue syndrome may be eligible for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. These VA disability benefits can help veterans cope with the effects of this condition.

Although the exact cause of this illness is unknown, it is believed to be triggered by a combination of factors such as infections, mental stress, and hormonal imbalances.


What Are Common Symptoms Of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

CFS, also sometimes called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), is a serious chronic illness that can cause extreme tiredness. Individuals suffering from CFS may feel so tired that they can’t do simple everyday tasks. The fatigue associated with CFS can grow to become only worse with mental health conditions or physical struggles. At the same time, it is not known to improve with rest.

In addition to weakness fatigue, individuals who suffer from CFS often have other symptoms, such as cognitive impairments, sleep problems, headaches, and joint pain. Some people also experience problems with memory and concentration.


How To Diagnose Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

To receive VA disability benefits, veterans must receive a medical diagnosis of the condition. This can be difficult as there is no single cause of CFS and its symptoms are similar to other conditions.

However, there are a few key signs that can help medical professionals to identify CFS.

  1. Severe fatigue after physical or mental activity
  2. Sleep disruption
  3. Unexplained muscle pain
  4. Headaches, difficulty concentrating, and memory problems
  5. Reduced ability to carry out day-to-day activities

For VA purposes, the diagnosis of CFS requires:

  1. New onset of severe fatigue that causes a person to be unable to perform routine activities for at least six months
  2. By history, physical examination, and laboratory testing, all other clinical conditions that might produce comparable symptoms have been ruled out
  3. Six or more of the following symptoms:
    1. acute onset of the condition,
    2. low grade fever
    3. nonexudative pharyngitis
    4. palpable or tender cervical or axillary lymph nodes
    5. generalized muscle aches or weakness
    6. fatigue lasting 24 hours or longer after exercise
    7. headaches (of a type, severity, or pattern that is different from headaches in the premorbid state)
    8. migratory joint pains
    9. neuropsychological symptoms
    10. sleep disturbance

If you believe you have CFS, it’s critical to get a diagnosis from your doctor. Most veterans with CFS can live a relatively normal lifestyle if treated appropriately.


Is There A Cure For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

There is no known cure for CFS at the moment, however there are treatments that have been proved to assist veterans manage the symptoms and enhance their quality of life.

CFS is a complex condition and although the precise cause of this sickness is unknown, it is thought to be caused by a variety of factors such as infections, mental strain, and hormonal abnormalities.

Meanwhile, veterans may work with their healthcare provider to create a treatment plan that includes dietary modifications, physical therapy, medicine, and alternative therapies such as massage or acupuncture.

While there is no cure for CFS, with the right treatment plan many veterans are able to significantly improve their symptoms and live fulfilling lives.

Service Connect CFS 1

Where Do Most Veterans Get CFS?

Gulf War veterans are significantly more likely than the general population to develop chronic fatigue syndrome. While the exact cause of CFS is unknown, it is believed to be associated with Gulf War-related exposures, such as chemicals and hazardous materials. Treatment for CFS typically focuses on managing symptoms and improving quality of life.

According to a study posted in NCBI, Gulf War veterans are also more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which has been linked to the development of CFS. As a result, Gulf War veterans should be aware of the risks associated with CFS and seek medical help.

If you are a Gulf War veteran who is experiencing fatigue or other unexplained symptoms, it is important to talk to your doctor about the possibility of CFS.


What Do CFS Disability Benefits Include?

VA disability benefits can provide vital financial support to those suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. Benefits can include a monthly cash payment, as well as coverage of medical expenses.

In order to qualify for CFS disability benefits, applicants must meet certain criteria. For example, their symptoms must be well-documented by a medical professional. The fatigue must be severe enough to limit the ability to perform daily activities by half for at least 6 months. Finally, there must be at least 6 or more of the following symptoms present: fever, tender lymph nodes, muscle aches or weakness, sore throat, debilitating fatigue lasting 24 hours or more after exercise, headaches unique to the fatigue (different than headaches before the fatigue began), joint aches, and cognitive problems (bad concentration, forgetfulness, confusion, etc.

The exact amount of benefits will vary depending on the applicant’s individual circumstances.

However, for many people with CFS, these benefits can make a big difference in their ability to manage their condition and live a relatively normal life.

Gulf War veterans who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome often find it difficult to receive disability benefits.

The reason for this is that the condition has not been clearly defined, diagnosed, or proved; therefore there are many hurdles along their path when it comes to the proper definition and criteria required to diagnose CFS.


VA Disability Benefits For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

To receive benefits, veterans must first complete a medical examination to provide evidence of their diagnosis, as well as submit a claim for CFS service-connection. The VA will then evaluate and determine the severity of the disability, as well as provide benefits. The VA uses this disability rating to establish how much monthly compensation one is eligible for as well as one’s eligibility for additional VA services. The intention behind these ratings is to compensate veterans for the average loss of earning capacity caused by their condition(s).

Veterans who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) may be eligible for disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA has established a schedule for rating CFS based on the levels of impairment it causes. The VA may also consider other factors, such as the impact of CFS on the veteran’s ability to socialize and perform daily activities, in determining the severity of the disability.

The VA disability rating is a system to determine the level of benefits a veteran is eligible for.

VA Disability Compensation Rates

The 2022 VA disability compensation rates are below (Veteran alone, no dependents):

  • 10 percent disability: $152.64 per month
  • 20 percent disability rating: $301.74 per month
  • 30 percent disability rating: $467.39 per month
  • 40 percent disability rating: $673.28 per month
  • 50 percent disability rating: $958.44 per month
  • 60 percent disability rating: $1,214.03 per month
  • 70 percent disability rating: $1,529.95 per month
  • 80 percent disability rating: $1,778.43 per month
  • 90 percent disability rating: $1,998.52 per month
  • 100 percent disability rating: $3,332.06 per month

For service-connected VA disabilities, you are eligible for ongoing care and medication at VA facilities. If service-connected for CFS, you may be entitled to receive these VA disability compensations and benefits.


Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome A Service-Connected Disability?

Although CFS can be service-connected, the cause and cure is unknown. Symptoms include generalized muscle aches including extreme fatigue, joint and muscle pain, headaches, and memory problems.

CFS can significantly impair a person’s quality of life. Some experts believe that CFS is caused by an interaction between psychological stress and infection. However, there is no evidence to support this theory.

Other experts believe that CFS is the result of an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system. This theory is also unproven. As such, the cause of CFS remains a mystery.


Getting Service Connection From Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

There are a few key things you need to prove in order to establish and get service-connection from chronic fatigue syndrome:

  • You need to have a diagnosis of CFS from a qualified medical professional.
  • You need to show that you developed CFS after serving in the military, or you need to provide medical evidence or an Independent Medical Opinion (IMO) from a medical provider.
Service connect Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 1

The following conditions do not have to show a link between their illnesses and military service to be eligible for VA disability compensation. ME/CFS must have become at least 10% incapacitating beginning on or before December 31, 2026, while serving in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations. By providing this evidence and meeting the caluza triangle, this will service-connect you for CFS.

If you did not serve in the Southwest Asia theater during this time period, service connection may be proven by showing a strong connection to your respective active duty service.

Providing medical records and medical evidence, or an Independent Medical Opinion (IMO) from a doctor, may all be used to support a VA disability claim. Once you have gathered this evidence, you can submit it to the Department of Veterans Affairs for review. If the claim is approved, veterans will be eligible for compensation and benefits for the service-connected disability/ies.


What Do You Do If Your Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Claim Was Denied?

You may be eligible for VA disability compensation if you believe you have CFS. The application procedure, on the other hand, might be difficult.

Veterans who are denied a claim have the option of appealing to a Higher Level Review (without submitting new evidence), a Supplemental Claim (which needs new and relevant evidence), or a Board of Appeal.


Is Chronic Fatigue A Gulf War Presumptive?

CFS can have a profound impact on every aspect of a person’s life, making it difficult to work, socialize, or even take care of basic daily tasks.

Although the cause of CFS is unknown, there is growing evidence that it may be linked to exposure to chemicals during the Gulf War. In particular, many veterans, on active duty, were exposed to pesticides and other harmful substances while serving in the Gulf region. In less than two weeks after exposure, these substances have been shown to disrupt the body’s normal immune and hormonal responses, which could lead to the development of CFS. Additionally, stress and trauma have also been linked to the development of CFS.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has declared chronic fatigue syndrome a presumptive illness for Gulf War veterans as a result of these findings. CFS must be shown to have developed “during active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations or by December 31, 2026, and be at least 10% disabling” in order to qualify for presumptive service connection.

Gulf war veterans who have been diagnosed with CFS may contact the Department of Veterans Affairs to submit a claim for service-connection.


How to file: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Video


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About the Author

Trisha Penrod Bio Photo

Trisha Penrod

Trisha Penrod is a former active duty Air Force officer. As an Intelligence Officer, she led teams of analysts to apply advanced analytic skills to identify, assess, and report potential threats to U.S. forces.

Trisha attended the U.S. Air Force Academy and holds an MBA from Webster University.  After receiving an honorable discharge in 2018, Trisha worked as a growth marketer and utilizes her analytic skills to help others accomplish their business goals.

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