Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. This degeneration leads to muscle weakness, muscle atrophy, and spontaneous muscle activity.
ALS usually affects individuals between age 40 and 70, and the disease progresses rapidly once it is diagnosed. There is no cure for ALS, but there are treatments that may slow the progression of the disease in some people.
Military veterans have twice the risk of the general population of being diagnosed with ALS, according to the ALS Association. The link between military service and ALS is not fully understood, but it is present regardless of the time period when the Veteran served, the branch of military in which he or she served, or whether service was during a time of peace or a time of war.
Because of the link between ALS and military service, the VA has made ALS a presumptive disease for veterans. Unlike other presumptive conditions, which may require service during a specific time period or at a specific location, ALS is broadly presumptive for all veterans with 90 days or more of continuous active duty in the military.
There are several reasons that the VA treats ALS as a presumptive illness for all veterans. First, the disease progresses so rapidly that it can be difficult for the Veteran to deal with the claims process, or the even more lengthy appeals process, as the disease continues to worsen. The life expectancy of a person with ALS is typically two to five years from the time of diagnosis, although some individuals can live for much longer with the disease.
ALS is also a difficult disease to diagnose, and the causes are not fully understood, making it difficult to provide medical evidence of the disease and its connection to military service. ALS typically starts with muscle weakness or stiffness, which progresses to wasting and paralysis of the muscles of the limbs and trunk, as well as those that control speech, swallowing, and later breathing.
ALS of any severity has a minimum rating of 100% disabling. If you have ALS, or have previously been denied when filing a claim for disability benefits for ALS, talk to a veterans attorney about your case.
Talk to an experienced veterans law practitioner to learn more about the appeals process. Our veterans lawyers have helped thousands of veterans with their VA disability compensation appeals. Contact us for a no-cost consultation.