What is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis?
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a rare, progressive neurogenic disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. As the disease advances and nerve cells get destroyed, the muscles progressively weaken. Early signs and symptoms of ALS include:
- Difficulty walking
- Tripping and falling
- Weakness in lower extremities
- Hand weakness or clumsiness
- Slurred speech and/or trouble swallowing
- Muscle cramps and/or twitching
- Difficulty holding good posture
As the disease progresses it impacts the ability to move, speak, eat and breathe. Ultimately, ALS is fatal.
Although there is no known cause of ALS, the ALS Association states that military veterans are approximately twice as likely to be diagnosed with ALS as the general public.
How to Get a VA Disability Rating?
The VA will grant presumptive service connection if ALS manifests at any time after discharge from military service. This means that a veteran’s ALS can have developed or been diagnosed at any point following their military service.
To qualify for the presumption a veteran still needs a formal diagnosis of ALS and at least 90 days of active, continuous military, naval, or air service.
There are several exceptions to the presumption, veterans of the National Guard do not qualify. Further, if it has been shown that a veteran’s ALS is a result of their own willful misconduct during service they will not qualify for the presumption.
How is it Rated?
The VA automatically awards a 100% rating due to the severity of the condition. As the disease progresses and causes further functional impairment veterans may be entitled to additional benefits.