The Department of Veterans Affairs announced the new deadline Thursday. Under the previous regulation, Veterans of the Iraq wars would only be eligible for benefits due to the illness if their symptoms manifested by Dec. 31, 2011.
“Not all the wounds of war are fully understood,” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a statement. “When there is uncertainty about the connection between a medical problem and military service, Veterans are entitled to the benefit of the doubt.”
Many Veterans of the Gulf War suffer from the so-called Gulf War Illness. The cause of the condition is currently unexplained, and the symptoms can range from fatigue and joint pain to digestion problems and respiratory disorders.
Theories blame the condition on exposure to pesticides, chemical weapons or depleted uranium. Some suspect the pyridostigmine bromide pills taken as an antidote to nerve gas may have caused the health problems.
Veterans of the recently-ended Iraq War may have also been exposed to toxic chemicals due to open-air burn pits. They might also have been exposed to depleted uranium.
Despite budget cuts, Congress has approved $10 million to study the cause of Gulf War Illness.