A new change in the Department of Veterans Affairs regulations regarding amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, may make it easier for Veterans diagnosed with the fatal disease to receive much-needed care.
Starting Wednesday, when the rule change takes effect, VA will assign “a total disability rating for any veteran with service-connected ALS.” Previously, the minimum rating for ALS was 30 percent, but the VA “determined that providing a 100-percent evaluation in all cases would obviate the need to reassess and reevaluate veterans with ALS repeatedly over a short period of time, as the condition worsens and inevitably and relentlessly progresses to total disability.” See 76 Fed. Reg. 78832, 78823-78824 (Dec. 20, 2011).
ALS is a disease that affects the parts of the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. In most cases, the cause of the disease is unknown.
There is no known cure for the disease, which progresses rapidly. According to Scott Hillard, action director of Field Services for Paralyzed Veterans of America, “People die from this within five to seven years of diagnosis.”
In order for a Veteran to be eligible for service connection for ALS, the Veteran must have served at least 90 continuous days of active duty; there must be evidence the disease was not due to the Veteran’s own willful misconduct. See 38 C.F.R. § 3.318.