U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and U.S. Representative Henry Brown (R-Hanahan) today expressed their support for the decision by Secretary of Veterans' Affairs James Peake to make amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," a service connected disability.
Graham and Brown have been working with Secretary Peake to make this designation, and Peake informed the lawmakers of his decision on a conference call this morning.
"I applaud Secretary Peake's decision to make ALS a service connected disability," said Graham. "This devastating disease occurs in the military at more than twice the rate of the general population. The Secretary's decision to find a service connection is justified and the right thing to do. This decision will provide much comfort to the military members suffering from this debilitating disease. I want to thank Henry Brown for his leadership on this issue, and General Mikolajcik for his service to our country and heroic stand on behalf of his fellow veterans."
"Today's decision by Secretary Peake is the culmination of a concerted effort to have veterans with ALS receive benefits they deserve from the VA," said Brown. "A growing number of veterans, especially those who served during the first Gulf War, have been diagnosed with ALS, and there is a clear connection between ALS and military service. Veterans with ALS, such as Charleston 's Retired Brigadier General Thomas Mikolajcik, have shown the same determination in their fight for this change as they show in their fight against ALS. I was proud to stand beside them and Senator Graham in getting them the benefits that the evidence shows they deserve."
In addition to working to move the VA towards making today's change, Congressman Brown introduced legislation (H.R. 5454) that would establish a presumption of service connection for all veterans with ALS. The House Veterans' Affairs Committee held a hearing on Brown's legislation just a month ago, and it was expected to move to the House floor before the end of the year.
According to Secretary Peake, the change should go into effect August 1.