Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis – more commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease – is a progressive disease that impacts nerve cells from the spinal cord to the brain. Over time, this physical condition can result in a drastic weakening of the muscles.
There are connections between ALS and active military service that have yet to be explained. In general, however, veterans are twice as likely to develop ALS later in life compared to civilians. Because of the questions that surround this condition, former servicemembers nationwide should enlist the help of an experienced attorney for obtaining benefits in a veterans’ ALS claim.
ALS often begins with weakness in the legs or arms, and the symptoms typically worsen over time. Early-stage ALS could also involve difficulty swallowing or speaking. This condition can be painful, especially as the disease progresses.
Late-stage ALS can ultimately result in the loss of mobility as well as the inability to speak or eat food independently. This disease is often fatal, as the loss of muscle control eventually leads to an inability to breathe.
One of the challenges of addressing ALS in military veterans is the limited knowledge of the origins of this condition. A majority of ALS cases cannot be traced to a specific event, which is especially problematic for veterans seeking VA disability benefits following an ALS diagnosis.
Previously, it was difficult to obtain VA benefits for ALS despite how common the disease is with retired servicemembers. This was largely due to the inability of veterans to identify a nexus between their ALS and a service-related event. Establishing a nexus can be difficult in many cases. For a disease like ALS where medical experts are unsure of the cause, there was virtually no way for veterans to establish a nexus.
Understanding the challenges that ALS patients experience when pursuing disability benefits eventually led the VA to create a presumption that the disease is service-connected. This presumption allows a veteran’s ALS claim to proceed without an identified service-related origin.
However, like all presumptions, a former servicemember’s presumed service-connection could be rebutted with evidence provided by VA administrators. If the presumption is successfully refuted, the applicant will need to establish a nexus to a service-related event to obtain disability benefits for ALS.
While the presumption that ALS is service-related can greatly improve a veteran’s chances of receiving benefits, it does not guarantee a favorable outcome. Denied claims are still common for a variety of reasons. The good news is that these denials can often be addressed. With the guidance of an experienced attorney, a successful VA benefits claim could be possible following an ALS diagnosis.
Working with one of our lawyers on an ALS claim can make a tremendous difference in the life of a veteran in any state. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with ALS following an active duty military career, you could be entitled to compensation. Schedule a confidential consultation today to learn more about veterans’ ALS claims.