Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Veterans who develop ALS advocate for benefits

Anthony Averella, 53, of Glen Burnie, Md., served in
the Army and National Guard and has ALS.

The Baltimore Sun reported on the race against time that military veterans are in to get the benefits they need after developing ALS.

A Duke University study has found that soldiers are more likely than the general population to develop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

"Early this decade, the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments released a study showing that veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf War were twice as likely as other soldiers to get ALS, and the federal government extended disability compensation," The Sun reports." Now, some veterans and advocates, including members of Congress, are pushing the VA to extend those benefits to all veterans with the disease."

"Relatives of Anthony Averella (picture above), who receives disability pay because he was in the Army when diagnosed with ALS, are among those who suspect that the illness is linked to military service," The Sun reports.

"Other people came home - they lost an arm, lost a leg," said John Y. Averella, his brother. "But he came home with a death sentence."

ALS is a fatal neurological disease, affecting about 30,000 Americans, fewer than 10 percent of whom served in the military. The disease kills motor neurons until total paralysis sets in; however, it has little effect on a person's mind, so the person is aware of the body's deterioration. Most people die within five years of diagnosis.