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Rounds, Coons, Murkowski and Whitehouse Introduce Legislation to Support Military Families Affected by ALS

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) reintroduced the Justice for ALS Veterans Act. This bipartisan legislation would guarantee that surviving spouses of veterans who died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) receive the benefits they have earned.

“Our men and women in uniform have made incredible sacrifices so that we can be free,” said Rounds. “We have a responsibility to provide them with the benefits they have earned when their service is completed. Under current law, many veterans diagnosed with ALS do not survive the eight years that the VA requires in order for their loved ones to receive full benefits. This bill would extend increased VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) to the surviving spouse of a veteran who died from service-connected ALS, regardless of how long the veteran had the disease prior to death. I am pleased to work with Senators Coons, Murkowski and Whitehouse on this bipartisan legislation to make certain military families receive their earned benefits.”

“ALS is a particularly cruel and brutal disease that takes the lives of thousands of Americans each year, including many veterans who have sacrificed so much for this nation,” said Coons. “Denying the families of veterans who succumb to this disease because of a bureaucratic test shortly after the death of a parent, spouse, or other loved one is simply adding insult to injury.”

“The average life expectancy for a person living with the cruel and unforgiving disease ALS is short, but the impact of the disease and toll of losing a loved one can remain with a family forever,” said Murkowski. “I’ve made it a priority to support our veterans and their families, including those who have bravely battled ALS. I urge my colleagues in Congress to support this important measure for the sake of our veterans who pass from ALS, and the loved ones they leave behind.”

The surviving spouse and family of a deceased veteran who had a service-connected disability deemed fully debilitating for a continuous period of at least eight years prior to death currently receive an additional monthly financial benefit from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. However, the average life expectancy for an individual diagnosed with ALS is just two to five years after diagnosis, preventing many families from accessing this benefit. The Justice for ALS Veterans Act would make certain surviving spouses of veterans who die from ALS receive these payments, regardless of how long a veteran had ALS prior to death.

“For our military veterans, the chances of developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are significantly higher than it is for those who have not served in the armed forces,” said Calanet Balas, President and CEO of the ALS Association. “ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that is always fatal, usually within two to five years. Therefore, it is imperative that our nation supports veterans living with ALS, and their families, by passing the Justice for ALS Veterans Act. Surviving families should not be penalized from receiving increased compensation due to the fast progression of ALS.”

Rounds, Coons, Murkowski and Whitehouse also introduced this legislation in the 117th Congress.


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