Veterans who served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other theaters since the 9/11 attacks are at higher risk for developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative condition also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a recent medical study concludes.
The study, “Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Among Veterans Deployed in Support of Post-9/11 U.S. Conflicts” published in the journal Military Medicine, says that Air Force Veterans and aircraft crews, in particular, are at elevated risk of developing the progressive neurodegenerative disease.
As ALS advances, the disease causes degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that leads to muscle weakness, muscle atrophy, loss of muscle control, and spontaneous muscle activity. Veterans with ALS deserve the full disability benefits a grateful nation can provide, and they are entitled to VA compensation for ALS.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a recognized military service-connected disabling condition. Since 2008, the VA has provided a presumptive benefit for Veterans diagnosed with ALS after having served continuously for at least 90 days. In 2012, the VA increased the minimum ALS Veterans disability rating to 100%.
The cause of ALS is unknown, and there is currently no cure. ALS affects about 20,000 to 30,000 people in the United States and is often relentlessly progressive.
Berry Law focuses on handling Veterans’ disability appeals at every VA Regional Office in the United States. Our team, which is full of Veterans from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, can help you get the correct ALS diagnosis added to your VA disability rating.
ALS is a devastating, aggressive disease and you need an aggressive VA disability attorney to handle your disability appeal and make sure you are receiving the full range of benefits available by law.
If a Veteran is diagnosed with ALS, his or her condition will be presumed to have occurred during or been aggravated by military service. As such, the Veteran is entitled to a service connection and full VA benefits for ALS.
In addition to a minimum 100% disability rating, Veterans benefits for ALS may include additional special monthly compensation (SMC) for serious disabilities. Several other ALS Veterans benefits, including monthly Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) payments to survivors and insurance benefits for dependents, are available as well.
We can make sure your VA disability appeal includes the relevant evidence necessary for the VA to make a proper evaluation.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive disease that causes progressive degeneration of motor neurons. As motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With muscle action progressively lost, the Veteran with ALS will eventually lose the ability to move, speak, eat, and breathe.
There are two different types of ALS. Sporadic ALS, which is the most common form of the disease in the U.S., accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all cases. It can affect anyone. Familial ALS is inherited and accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all cases in the U.S.
While there is no known cure, there are currently four drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat ALS (Riluzole, Nuedexta, Radicava, and Tiglutik). Doctors and therapists can provide multidisciplinary care to help manage the symptoms of the disease and help Veterans living with ALS to maintain as much independence as possible.
ALS usually strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70, and it is estimated there are at least 16,000 Americans who have the disease at any given time. For unknown reasons, military Veterans are approximately twice as likely to be diagnosed with the disease than the general public.
ALS News Today explains that the study published by Military Medicine suggests that there is an early onset of ALS among deployed military service members.
Previous studies have shown an average case rate of ALS among deployed Gulf War Veterans of 6.7 per million compared with 3.5 per million among individuals who were not deployed.
The new study of Veterans deployed in support of post-9/11 conflicts who received care in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) during the fiscal years of 2002–2015 found that the prevalence of ALS was 19.7 per 100,000. This rate is significantly higher than the ALS prevalence reported among deployed Gulf War Veterans, which was 5.8 per 100,000 over 10 years after the Gulf War, ALS News Today says.
The researchers involved in the Military Medicine study also sought to evaluate whether other health conditions, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), depression, and cardiac disease, were linked to the onset of ALS among Veterans in the study group.
The Military Medicine researchers said neither TBI nor younger age, defined as younger than 45 years old, were associated with ALS among the Veterans studied. Over the 14-year study period (combining definite and possible ALS cases) the prevalence of ALS was similar among Veterans with and without TBI.
Researchers said ALS prevalence was highest (33.2 cases per 100,000) among Air Force personnel and lowest (4.4 cases per 100,000) among Marines compared to those in the Army, Navy, and Coast Guard.
When considering major DoD occupational categories, tactical operations officers (e.g., pilots, aircraft crews, and missile combat operations staff officers) had a significantly higher incidence of ALS compared to administration and management officers, general officers, supply and service officers and handlers, communications and intelligence specialists, and electronic/electrical/mechanical equipment repairers.
The risk of having ALS was 2.2 times more likely among tactical operations officers compared to administrators and general officers.
The study also found a higher rate of ALS in the DoD occupational category that includes health care workers, scientists, and professionals when compared to general officers and administrators. This may represent an earlier diagnosis or better access to care, researchers said.
“This suggests the need for evaluating the role of occupational exposures these personnel are exposed to, such as ionizing radiation, electromagnetic fields, ozone, jet emissions, and noise in the pathogenesis of ALS,” the researchers said.
Electromagnetic fields, high-intensity radar waves, diesel exhaust, and electric shock have previously been reported to be risk factors for ALS.
Other demographic characteristics associated with significantly higher odds of ALS were:
In addition to the need to study the possibility that service-connected occupational exposures may cause ALS, the researchers said the Veterans in the study need future ALS surveillance measures because ALS may develop as Vets age.
The VA presumes that certain diseases and disabilities among Veterans were caused by military service. If a Veteran is diagnosed with a disease categorized as a presumptive condition, the Veteran can be awarded disability compensation without demonstrating a specific service connection.
The VA has identified about 40 chronic diseases subject to presumptive service connection, including arthritis, cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes mellitus, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, tumors of the brain or spinal cord, or peripheral nerves, and ulcers. As noted above, ALS was added to the list in 2008.
There are additional presumptions for:
The lawyers at Berry Law are accredited by the VA to represent Veterans appealing disability decisions. Our attorneys have successfully obtained compensation benefits for thousands of Veterans.
A Berry Law attorney can assist you with an appeal to upgrade your VA rating at the Regional Office, the Board of Veterans Appeals, or the Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims.
If you have a valid diagnosis of ALS or “Lou Gehrig’s disease” that is not already a part of your VA disability rating, Berry Law can help you fight to increase your VA disability rating and, in turn, your monthly VA compensation for ALS. Your VA disability rating – which automatically becomes 100% with an ALS diagnosis – determines your monthly Veterans’ disability benefit payment.
In 2018, the VA’s Office of Inspector General found that the VA had been cutting benefits to some ALS patients and overpaying others. Investigators found a roughly 45 percent error rate among 430 cases reviewed. If necessary, we know how to determine the proper amount of back pay you deserve and can help you obtain it as part of a disability appeal.
The rules and regulations governing appeals of denied VA claims or incorrect VA disability benefits decisions are complex and confusing. We have decades of experience helping Veterans across America and some Veterans in other countries fight for the VA disability benefits they deserve. We know how to help you pursue the disability rating you deserve. We Know the Way Forward.
Call Berry Law at (888) 883-2483 or contact us online to schedule a free case evaluation today.
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