Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord, and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed. This disease is almost always fatal. Currently, the cause of ALS is unknown, and there is no effective treatment.
Statistics confirm that ALS strikes U.S. military veterans more frequently than it does the general population. One study conducted in 2005 found that veterans, regardless of when they served, are 60 percent more likely to contract ALS than people who were not in the military. Even among veterans, however, some groups are more prone to get the disease than others. In particular, those who served in the first Gulf War, August 1990 to February 1991, are nearly twice as likely to contract ALS as veterans of other conflicts.
Effective Sept. 23, 2008, the VA Secretary established ALS as a presumptive compensable illness for all veterans who served at least 90 days of continuous active service, regardless of when or where they served. There is also Dependency Indemnity Compensation (I wrote about this benefit in my March article) for survivors of veterans who die or have died of this disease.
For more information on ALS or any other veterans’ or survivors’ benefits, contact the Oneida County Veterans’ Service Office.
Tammy Walters is available at (715) 369-6127, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.