According to the VA Utilization Profile from the Department of Veterans Affairs, 48% of veterans used at least one benefit established for veterans in 2016. That means that just over half of qualified veterans do not use any benefits at all, including those who served during the Gulf War. If you are a qualifying Gulf War veteran of the United States Armed Forces who has been suffering from various illnesses and you have not yet applied for VA benefits—especially if you are struggling to find a job in the civilian sector—it's time to stop smoking and joking and get squared away. Here's what you need to know, broken down Barney-style. 

You are a wartime veteran if you served from August 2, 1990, to present day 

The Gulf War started on August 2, 1990, and is ongoing until a future date is set by Presidential Proclamation or by law ending the wartime period. What this means for you if you served during this time is that you may qualify for veteran's benefits that could help you financially, as long as your discharge wasn't dishonorable. One thing that is crucial to establish is whether or not you have a service-related disability or not, which includes presumptive illnesses that are common in veterans who served in Southeast Asia during the Gulf War. However, if you do not have a service-related disability, there are still VA benefits that can help you. 

You don't have to show proof of service-related connection to presumptive illnesses

Presumptive illnesses of those who served in the Gulf War include unexplained ailments such as chronic fatigue syndrome, abnormal weight loss, cardiovascular disease, headaches, fibromyalgia, fatigue, gastrointestinal disorders, muscle and joint pain, respiratory disorders, neurological problems, psychological problems, and more. In order for an ailment to be considered a presumptive illness of the Gulf War, your physician needs to determine that there is no other explanation for the ailment. 

Essentially, if you were in theater during the Gulf War and have unexplained medical problems, you won't have to prove that your service in the military caused your problems. The VA presumes that your complaints are service-related. Therefore, you should file for VA compensation. The severity of your medical condition could result in a disability rating and, therefore, a monthly monetary disability compensation. If you are awarded a service-connected disability rating, you will be back-paid to the first of the month after you filed your claim or when you signed a letter of intent through a lawyer or a veteran's advocate. 

You can file for Chapter 31 benefits with an established VA disability rating of 10% or higher 

If you are awarded a disability rating of at least 10% and meet other qualifications, you may be eligible for Chapter 31 VA benefits. The Chapter 31 program of the Veteran's Administration is called the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Services program. There is a 12-year eligibility period to qualify for the Chapter 31 program. The eligibility period starts on the date of separation from active duty or on the date a veteran is given a service-connected disability rating. 

The program entails going through interest and aptitude testing, exploring various occupations, setting goals, and locating and enrolling in a training program. While going through the Chapter 31 program, you can use your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits if you are still entitled to them. This will help you pay for any educational materials and living expenses you may need while in the program. If you are no longer eligible for GI Bill benefits, yet you are receiving SSDI or SSI, you may be eligible for veteran's pension through the VA as well, which can also help your financial situation.