Friday, July 25, 2008

Victory for Veterans

Not always does ALS get a victory but we are grateful and give thanks this July of 2008. The thanks goes out to those who worked non-stop to get ALS a service connected disability for all veterans. Two years of hard work came to fruition that could benefit thousands of veterans who suffer from Lou Gehrig's disease. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will grant a service-connected disability, the highest category of disability, to all veterans with ALS, (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) a degenerative disease that affects veterans at a rate at 1.6 times the general population. You might say ALS has taken on a new face in the fight for the mysterious trigger that continues to stump the research world.

This special thanks involves a lot of people but mostly it started in the Navy and then circulated over to the Air Force. The ALS community salutes James Thew of the Navy and Gen. Tom Mikolajcik (retired) of the Air Force. Both men have ALS and have testified many times before congress telling them of the need for the military to recognize ALS as the new enemy. We also salute the ALS Association D.C. branch for orchestrating the latest hearing before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. They worked closely with the South Carolina ALS chapter that Gen. Mikolajcik helped to form in 2006. Gen. Mikolajcik also helped to recruit the ears of Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Henry Brown to reinforce this latest decision by the V.A. and we're so thankful these two congressmen really understand ALS.

Questions still circle this policy change and we only hope it works for all military ALS patients and families who have experienced life with ALS. More questions are: Will the VA contact deceased veterans families for compensation and education benefits? Will the VA make this retroactive to the date of the claim, or pay from the date of this policy change? Does the VA have enough staff to process these claims? How many veterans and survivors does VA expect to file new claims or re-open prior claims? Some are doubtful that the VA will contact veterans with prior denied claims. Time will tell but how much time do ALS veterans have?

Today we'll take this victory but this victory should NOT be the last. We have further steps toward expeditious attention and change to legislation that treats ALS as a critical orphan disease that has no CURE.

This disease does NOT believe in waiting, take that from one who knows.

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