VA Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Rating: Disability Benefits for Veterans with CFS

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is also known as Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease (SEID) and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).  It is characterized by extreme fatigue without explanation from any other underlying condition.

Symptoms can worsen with physical or mental exertion, including basic activities such as running errands, reading, or staying mentally focused at work, requiring a lot of downtime in the evenings and on weekends to recover.

CFS is a VA-rated disability for Gulf War Veterans, and you may be entitled to disability benefits if you qualify.

Veteran Ratings and our network of consulting professionals can guide you as you gather evidence and documentation if you are considering submitting a CFS claim to the VA.  Here’s what you need to know.

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

The exact cause of CFS is unknown, and the medical community theorizes that it could be based on changes to a person’s immune system and how it responds to stress or infections.  It shares some of the same symptoms as autoimmune illnesses in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues in its own body.  It’s also possible that CFS could have this illness from multiple causes and triggers that might work together to cause the condition.

Symptoms can manifest in several ways, including:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • Headache
  • Tender lymph nodes
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Thinking and memory issues
  • Insomnia and other sleep issues
  • Still feeling tired after resting or sleeping
  • Taking a long time to recover after physical activity
  • Fast or irregular heartbeats

The severity of symptoms can vary daily in their severity and duration.

The Connection Between Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Veterans

Gulf War Veterans who believe they suffer from CFS do not have to prove a connection between their illnesses and service to be eligible to receive VA disability compensation.  The VA has declared chronic fatigue syndrome a presumptive illness for Gulf War veterans.

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” to qualify for presumptive service connection.

The VA has recognized medically unexplained illnesses, more commonly called “Gulf War Syndrome,” and certain infectious diseases, including CFS.

A Persian Gulf Veteran is defined as someone who served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations during the Persian Gulf War.  The Southwest Asia theater of operations includes Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, and the airspace above these locations.

Veterans may be eligible for several VA benefits, including a Gulf War Registry health exam, the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, health care, and disability compensation. Their dependents and survivors also may be eligible for benefits for a Veteran’s disability related to military service.

VA Rating Criteria For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

If you’re a Veteran who wants to file a disability claim for CFS, the Department of Veterans Affairs has to see if the onset of this fatigue is severe enough to reduce routine daily activities to less than 50%, your medical history, and several symptoms that indicate CFS.

Specifically, the VA will consider granting a disability rating and award compensation using the following criteria.

  1. New onset of debilitating fatigue severe enough to reduce daily activity to less than 50% of the usual level for at least six months.
  2. History of studies and lab work showing the doctor ruled out other possible conditions that may be causing the same symptoms.
  3. Six or more of the following symptoms:
    • Acute onset of the condition
    • Low-grade fever
    • Nonexudative pharyngitis (swelling of the back of the throat with no mucus)
    • Tender/palpable lymph nodes (neck or underarms)
    • Generalized muscle aches or weakness
    • Fatigue lasting longer than 24 hours after exercise
    • Headaches
    • Migratory joint pain
    • Neuropsychological symptoms (burning, numbness, tingling sensation, sensitivity)
    • Sleep disturbances


VA Ratings for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

The VA disability ratings for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are 10%, 20%, 40%, 60%, and 100%.  The rating you receive is dependent on the severity and other factors of your symptoms.

For example, the rating criteria for a 100% disability rating for CFS is debilitating and incapacitating fatigue, cognitive impairments, or a mixture of other similar symptoms severe enough to restrict your daily life and self-care significantly.

ME/CFS must have emerged during active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations on or by December 31, 2026, and be at least 10 percent disabling.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is rated under CFR 38, Part 4, VA Schedule of Ratings, Diagnostic Code 6354,  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

C&P Exam for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

A Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam helps the VA determine if you have a service-connected disability. It will also help the VA rate your disability if you have one. A C&P exam is only required for someone filing for the first time and you can utilize Veteran Ratings partner network of medical professionals for an exam.

The Gulf War General Medical examination is a comprehensive disability examination and can be a lengthy process, and additional examination protocols may be required.

C&P examiners must characterize a Veteran’s condition as belonging to one of four disability patterns/categories.  These include:

  1. An undiagnosed illness
  1. A medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illness (a diagnosed illness without conclusive pathophysiology or etiology) defined by a cluster of signs or symptoms, such as CFS, Fibromyalgia, functional gastrointestinal disorders, and others.
  1. A diagnosable chronic multisymptom illness with a partially explained etiology
  1. A disease with a clear and specific etiology

A diagnosis of CFS is often made by ruling out other conditions such as sleep disorders, other fatigue-based medical problems such as anemia, diabetes, and hypothyroidism, heart and lung issues, or mental health conditions such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety.

Establishing Service Connection for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Gulf War Veterans who develop CFS do not have to prove a connection between their illnesses and service to be eligible to receive VA disability compensation.  However, it’s a good idea to work with Veteran Ratings and our consulting partners to obtain a third party medical review to substantiate your claim further, especially since  Gulf War Syndrome is routinely misunderstood by C&P examiners and VA Raters.

Preparing a Strong CFS Disability Claim

To ensure the highest possible chance for approval, Veterans must have a diagnosis from a qualified medical professional and show proof that they developed CFS after serving in the military.  If you didn’t serve in the Southwest Asia theater during the defined period, service connection might be proven by showing a strong connection to your respective active duty service.

Veteran Ratings can pair you up with a Veteran consulting partner that can guide you in what evidence and documentation is needed. We have a 95% success rate in assisting Veterans with their initial claim submissions.  When you meet with us for a risk-free consultation and subsequently work with medical professionals in our partner’s nationwide network of providers, you will save time and gain peace of mind knowing you are creating your best chance for approval.

Get In Touch

If you are struggling with your VA disability rating or want to learn more about our service, please get in touch with our Veteran Ratings team.

Don’t hesitate! We are happy to answer any of your questions and provide guidance for your unique case.

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