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Tue, 23 Sep 2008 14:10:23 -0400

New VA Rules for ALS Victims

Recent VA News Releases
Source: http://www.listserv.va.gov/cgi-bin/wa.exe?A2=ind0809&L=vanews-l&T=0&P=545

VA Secretary Establishes ALS as a Presumptive Compensable Illness
Cites Association between Military Service and Later Development of ALS

WASHINGTON (Sept. 23, 2008) - Veterans with amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis (ALS) may receive badly-needed support for themselves and
their families after the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced
today that ALS will become a presumptively compensable illness for all
veterans with 90 days or more of continuously active service in the
military.

"Veterans are developing ALS in rates higher than the general
population, and it was appropriate to take action," Secretary of
Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake said.

Secretary Peake based his decision primarily on a November 2006 report
by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (IOM) on the
association between active-duty service and ALS.

"We are extremely grateful to Secretary Peake, Congressman Henry Brown
and Senator Lindsey Graham for standing on the side of veterans with ALS
across the country," said Gary Leo, president and CEO of The ALS
Association. "Thanks to their leadership, veterans with ALS will receive
the benefits and care they need, when they need them. Thanks to their
efforts, no veteran with ALS will ever be left behind."

The report, titled Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in Veterans: Review of
the Scientific Literature, analyzed numerous previous studies on the
issue and concluded that "there is limited and suggestive evidence of an
association between military service and later development of ALS."

"ALS is a disease that progresses rapidly, once it is diagnosed," the
Secretary explained. "There simply isn't time to develop the evidence
needed to support compensation claims before many veterans become
seriously ill. My decision will make those claims much easier to
process, and for them and their families to receive the compensation
they have earned through their service to our nation."

ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's disease, is a neuromuscular disease that
affects about 20,000 to 30,000 people of all races and ethnicities in
the United States, is often relentlessly progressive, and is almost
always fatal.

ALS causes degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that
leads to muscle weakness, muscle atrophy, and spontaneous muscle
activity. Currently, the cause of ALS is unknown, and there is no
effective treatment.

The new interim final regulation applies to all applications for
benefits received by VA on or after September 23, 2008, or that are
pending before VA, the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans
Claims, or the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on
that date.

VA will work to identify and contact veterans with ALS, including those
whose claims for ALS were previously denied, through direct mailings and
other outreach programs.

To view the entire regulation published in the Federal Register today,
go to: www.federalregister.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2008-21998_PI.pdf. For
more information on VA's disability compensation program, go to
www.va.gov or contact 1-800-827-1000.