The Department of Veterans Affairs added two associated conditions, “deafness” and “demyelinating meningovascular syndromes,” to the infectious disease Brucellosis for Gulf War Veterans in an adjudication manual update. There are now 18 adverse health conditions associated with Brucellosis.
Qualified veterans who had claims denied for either “deafness” or “demyelinating meningovascular syndromes” after September 29, 2010, should resubmit their claims.
Federal regulation authorized a presumptive service-connection for certain infectious diseases in September 2010. The associated conditions were identified by The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences as potential long-term health effects of the infectious disease with “limited or suggestive evidence of an association.” Though the associated conditions were added to the federal regulation in 2010, “deafness” and “demyelinating meningovascular syndromes” were not added to the VA Adjudication Manual until 2016.
Connection to military service
For a qualified veteran diagnosed with the primary infectious disease, the VA will request a medical opinion as to whether it is at least as likely as not that an identified associated condition was caused by the Veteran having the infectious disease.
However, it is to the veteran’s advantage to front-load this process with all available factual and supportive information and documentation. Disability claim documentation should address, and rule out, the possibility of contracting brucellosis through means other than exposure during military service. Medical history documentation and/or in a personal statement written by the veteran can address this issue.
To be eligible for a disability rating under 38 CFR 3.317, the veteran must have served on active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of operations during the Gulf War, and diagnosed with Brucellosis within one year that service or service on or after September 19, 2001 in Afghanistan.
Most notably, eligible veterans who had claims for either associated condition denied after September 29, 2010 should reapply and cite the updated regulation, National Academy of Sciences report, and the VA’s adjudication manual update.
Veterans not meeting the above basic eligibility rules can still file for disability compensation. The burden is on these veterans to prove the three required elements of a service-connection — a current diagnosis/disability, a verifiable event while in service, and a link (nexus) between the two.
Bacteria in domesticated and wild animals are responsible for Brucellosis. People contract the disease when in contact with infected animals or animal products, such as sheep, cattle, goats, pigs, camels and dogs. Potentially infected herd animals are bison, elk, caribou, moose, and wild hogs.
Brucellosis infection is generally contracted through:
- Eating undercooked meat or consuming unpasteurized or raw dairy products
- Breathing in the bacteria that causes brucellosis
- Bacteria entering the body through skin wounds or mucous membranes
Reports say the disease causes more than 500,000 infections per year worldwide. However, yearly cases in the United States is only about 100. It is unknown how many of those cases are a result of a veteran’s military service. Imported, unpasteurized dairy products are a chief cause.
- Title 38, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 3.317(e) (38 CFR 3.317) Compensation for certain disabilities occurring in Persian Gulf veterans
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/brucellosis/transmission/index.html
- The National Academies Press, Gulf War and Health: Volume 5. Infectious Diseases
- Federal Register Rule published 09/29/2010 (75 FR 59968)
- Medscape at http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/213430-overview