Can I obtain VA disability benefits for chronic fatigue?

Yes, VA disability benefits for your chronic fatigue may be available.

You will need to prove that (a) you were in the military, (b) your chronic fatigue originated or was aggravated while you were on active duty, (c) you were continuously treated for your chronic fatigue since leaving the service (unless you are filing your disability claim within one year of leaving the service or your condition has been chronic), and (d) you are currently disabled by your chronic fatigue.

About chronic fatigue and disability

Chronic fatigue is also known as chronic fatigue syndrome and immune dysfunction syndrome. It is a very misunderstood disorder, and has been the center of much debate. It has no known proven causes, no definite tests to prove its validity, and no known cures.

It is a complex disorder that is has many signs and symptoms. The most common symptom is extreme fatigue for no reason that is not improved by rest and may get worse with light physical or mental activity.

Over one million people in the United States have been diagnosed with chronic fatigue.

The general pattern is that the person experiences “flu-like” symptoms that do not go away. This usually occurs during a period of great stress in the person’s life. When it first occurs, people think it will pass like the flu.

Chronic fatigue syndrome as a
medically-determinable impairment

The Center for Disease Control defines chronic fatigue as the presence of clinically evaluated, persistent or relapsing chronic fatigue that is new or has a definite beginning (that is, it has not been lifelong) that cannot be explained by any other diagnosed physical or mental disorder, or the result of ongoing exertion. Chronic fatigue is not substantially alleviated by rest, and it results in substantial reduction of previous levels of occupational, educational, social, or personal activities.

Additionally, the current definition of chronic fatigue requires four or more of the following symptoms, all of which must have persisted or recurred during six or more consecutive months of illness and must not have pre-dated the fatigue:

  • Self-reported impairment in short-term memory or concentration severe enough to cause substantial reduction in previous levels of occupational, educational, social, or personal activities
  • Sore throat
  • Tender cervical or axillary lymph nodes
  • Muscle pain
  • Multi-joint pain without joint swelling or redness
  • Headaches of a new type, pattern, or severity
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • Postexertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours

Medical signs or laboratory findings

No specific etiology or pathology has been established for chronic fatigue. Therefore, any possible signs and laboratory findings to establish the existence of a medically determinable impairment are only examples and are not all-inclusive.

The following laboratory findings establish the existence of a medically determinable impairment in individuals with chronic fatigue:

  • An elevated antibody titer to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) capsid antigen equal to or greater than 1:5120, or early antigen equal to or greater than 1:640
  • An abnormal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scan
  • Neurally mediated hypotension as shown by tilt table testing or another clinically accepted form of testing

Any other laboratory findings that are consistent with medically accepted clinical practice and are consistent with the other evidence in the case record; for example, an abnormal exercise stress test or abnormal sleep studies, appropriately evaluated and consistent with the other evidence in the case record.

Individuals with chronic fatigue may also exhibit medical signs, such as anxiety or depression, indicative of the existence of a mental disorder. When such medical signs are present and appropriately documented, the existence of a medically determinable impairment is established.