Support Urged for ‘Justice for ALS Veterans Act’ Sitting in US Congress

ALS Association favors increase in survivor benefits with no 8-year wait

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by Mary Chapman |

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An illustration of proposed legislation.

The ALS Association and Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) are pressing the Congress to pass legislation boosting the financial support given the spouses and dependents of U.S. veterans whose death comes after nearly a decade of living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) due to their service.

Specifically, the nonprofits are calling for passage of the Justice for ALS Veterans Act (HR 5607/S 3483), introduced into the House of Representatives in October 2021 and awaiting a full House vote. It was sent the Senate’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in January.

The legislation would permit surviving family to receive a “modest” increase in the rate of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), often referred to as the “DIC kicker,” without having to wait a now-required eight years.

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“The VA [Department of Veterans Affairs] provides a monthly financial benefit (i.e. the DIC kicker) to the spouse of any veteran who is 100 percent disabled for a continuous period of at least eight years immediately prior to death,” the groups noted in a joint press release. “Unfortunately, surviving spouses and family members of deceased veterans with ALS are often denied this additional financial support because the veterans do not live long enough to meet the eight-year life expectancy requirement.”

With U.S. veterans twice as likely as civilians of being diagnosed with ALS, and spouses and family members needing to give up careers to provide care, lawmakers need acknowledge that family members “serve” with the veteran, the groups stated.

“The ALS Association wholeheartedly supports this bill to increase compensation for surviving spouses of veterans who die from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS),” said Calaneet Balas, president and CEO of the ALS Association. “ALS is a devastating disease that impacts not only the person living with ALS but their entire family and causes great financial stress. Congress should pass this bill immediately.”

The VA recognizes ALS as a potential service-related disorder that causes 100% disability. In addition to the compensation benefits available to eligible survivors, the agency provides the DIC kicker to a veteran’s spouse, provided the service member was 100% disabled for eight or more years immediately before death.

“Survivors of ALS veterans should not be denied a benefit other federal survivors receive simply because the service-connected disease their veterans acquired made it nearly impossible for them to meet an eight-year life expectancy requirement,” said Carl Blake, the PVA’s executive director.

“We urge Congress to quickly pass the Justice for ALS Veterans Act, which would allow these survivors to get the  additional compensation they earned, and need,” Blake added.

Anyone wishing to support the bill’s passage can go here to send a letter to their congressional representatives. Lawmakers also can be contacted using this  PVAction Force site.