The ALS Association

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Progress

Veterans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with ALS

Studies funded by the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that veterans of the 1991 Gulf War are twice as likely to develop ALS as those not deployed to the Gulf. Recent research also has found elevated rates of the disease in veterans the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, researchers at Harvard University found in 2005 and 2009 studies that military veterans from other eras, ranging from before World War II to post Vietnam, also are nearly twice as likely to develop ALS as those who have never served in the military.

To better understand why this is the case, The ALS Association and our partners in government are working together to collect data and conduct research aimed at the cause.

Presumption of Service Connection

In 2008, the VA implemented regulations to establish a presumption of service connection for ALS. Under the regulation, the VA presumes that ALS in military veterans was incurred or aggravated by a veteran’s service in the military. As a result, veterans with ALS and their survivors are eligible for “service connected” benefits. In December 2011, the VA updated those regulations to provide that veterans with ALS automatically receive a minimum 100% disability rating, enabling them to access benefits they need as soon as possible.

National ALS Registry

The VA established a registry to identify cases of ALS in military veterans. From 2003 to 2007, the registry identified more than 2,100 veterans with ALS and has supplied data vital for ALS research. The National ALS Registry, created by Congress in 2008 at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also is collecting data on veterans with ALS and was launched in October 2010.

ALS Research Program (ALSRP) at the Department of Defense

The ALSRP is the only ALS-specific research program at the DOD and was created to find a treatment for ALS, a disease for which there is no effective treatment. Unlike other federal research efforts, which focus on basic science, the ALSRP advances translational research and fills a gap in the drug development pipeline in which limited funding prevents promising treatments from reaching patients. The ALSRP also supports the best science as projects are peer reviewed and awarded on a competitive grant basis to researchers nationwide. Importantly, the program is a partnership between the DOD, VA, NIH and the private sector to avoid duplication and ensure that scarce resources are provided to the most promising projects across the country. Currently, the ALSRP has funded 34 research projects across the country and four potential treatments have been identified.

Service Connected Benefits

Thanks to the efforts of key members of Congress, advocates, the VA, and The ALS Association, ALS has been listed as a disease entitled to presumptive service connection. This means that if a service member is diagnosed with ALS, his or her condition will be presumed to have occurred during or been aggravated by military service and as such be entitled to service connection and full benefits. From disability benefits to automobile grants to survivor benefits, learn more about the help available for veterans with ALS and their families.

Wall of Honor

If you are a veteran with ALS or the survivor of a veteran with ALS, we encourage you to visit and join our Wall of Honor and share your story.

Become an advocate to help the brave men and women who now face a ruthless enemy at home – ALS.

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