Through her position on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Lisa Murkowski today put the Senate on record that the Defense Department must continue to fund research into causes, treatments, and therapies of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or "Lou Gehrig's Disease."
Prior to today, resources to fund ALS research were contained within the multi-million dollar Peer Reviewed Medical Program at the insistence of the House of Representatives. But in negotiations within the Committee hearing, Murkowski convinced her Senate colleagues to take a stand against ALS and devote $7.5 million to fight the disease in the Fiscal Year 2015 Defense spending bill. Murkowski also pledged to seek higher funding levels in the succeeding years.
During the hearing, she made her case, stating:
"The statistics out there, that I find troubling, are that men and women who are serving in our United States military are 60% more likely than the civilian community to develop these fatal muscle-wasting diseases, such as ALS. The 1990-1991 Gulf War veteran population is twice as likely to develop ALS as the general population. We haven't been able to figure out what's the connector here, what's happening? But when you have a two to one ratio, that should get our attention."
The Veteran's Administration has regarded ALS as "presumptively service connected" since 2008 and provides for a minimum 100% disability rating for veterans who are diagnosed with the devastating disease.
The FY15 Defense Appropriations Bill allocates $247 million to the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program, which supports research in science and medicine in order to better the health of military members and their families. With Murkowski's amendment, $7.5 million of that funding will specifically go to help bridge the painful association between ALS and military service.