Thursday, September 25, 2008

VA Grants Disability to Military Veterans with Lou Gehrig’s Disease

The ALS Association Michigan Chapter's

678 Front St ------- 675 Big Beaver Rd
Suite 159 ------- Suite 207
Grand Rapids, MI 49504 ------- Troy, MI 48083
Fax: 616.459.4522 ------- Fax: 248.680.6541

Stacey Chase, Executive Director

VA Grants Disability and Health Benefits to Military
Veterans with Lou Gehrig’s Disease; The ALS Association
Michigan Chapter Calls New Policy a Historic Victory for Veterans

Troy, MI (September 25, 2008) - The Department of Veterans
Affairs published groundbreaking new regulations today that grant
military veterans diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease full access to
health and disability benefits, regardless of where or when they
served in the military. The new rules take effect immediately.

The decision to establish a presumption of service connection for ALS
(amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a tremendous victory for veterans
living with the disease and is the culmination of years of work by The
ALS Association to expand benefits for those diagnosed with the fatal
neurodegenerative disease made famous by baseball legend Lou Gehrig.

The Association has been the leading organization advocating for this
policy change at the VA for many years. In 2001, The Association
strongly supported the VA’s decision to grant benefits to veterans of
the 1991 Persian Gulf War and has championed legislative efforts to
build on that policy so that it applies to all veterans with ALS.

“We are so pleased to see the efforts of so many ALS advocates
realized. We have many Veterans in Michigan with ALS that will
benefit from this legislation.” – Stacey Chase, Executive Director

According to studies, military veterans within the last century such
as Tom Franz, 62, of Flushing and Eric Fox, 38 of West Michigan are
nearly twice as likely to develop ALS as those with no history of
military service, regardless of where or when they served in the

Most recently, The Association advocated for legislation (H.R. 5454)
introduced by Congressman Henry Brown (R-SC) that would have
established ALS as a service connected disease. Thanks to the
combined efforts of the VA Secretary James Peake, members of
Congress, The Association and veterans across the county this
legislation no longer is needed.

"Veterans are developing ALS in rates higher than the general
population, and it was appropriate to take action," VA Secretary
James Peake said. "ALS is a disease that progresses rapidly, once
it is diagnosed. There simply isn't time to develop the evidence
needed to support compensation claims before many veterans
become seriously ill. My decision will make those claims much
easier to process, and for them and their families to receive the
compensation they have earned through their service to our

“We are extremely grateful to Secretary Peake, Congressman
Brown and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for standing on the
side of veterans with ALS across the country,” said Gary Leo,
president and CEO of The Association. “Thanks to their
leadership, veterans with ALS will receive the benefits and care
they need, when they need them. Thanks to their efforts, no
veteran with ALS will ever be left behind.”

Veterans living with ALS across the county also played a vital role
in advancing this critical policy change, which was first identified
as a priority by The Association’s Veteran’s Affairs Issue Team.
Jeff Faull, a Navy veteran from The Association’s Greater
Philadelphia Chapter, Brigadier General Tom Mikolajcik (USAF Ret.),
who helped found The Association’s South Carolina Chapter and Jim
Thew, a Navy veteran from the Greater Chicago Chapter, all
testified to Congress and helped lead the effort to improve
benefits for all veterans with ALS.

“Veterans living with Lou Gehrig’s Disease now have one less
hurdle to face on an already difficult road,” said Steve Gibson,
The Association’s vice president of government relations and
public affairs. “Our heroes who have served in the military and
those serving today can now be reassured that our government
will fight for them just as they fought for us.”

ALS, a fatal progressive, neurodegenerative disease, is striking
at this nation’s heroes the hardest
(ALS in the Military: Unexpected Consequences of Military Service);
however, the reasons are not known at this time.

The ALS Association is a leader in the fight against Lou Gehrig’s
Disease. The mission of the organization is to lead the fight to cure
and treat ALS through global, cutting-edge research, and to
empower people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and their families to
live fuller lives by providing them with compassionate care and

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