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By Ken Cruickshank
Veterans Corner 

Veterans with ALS


Last updated 8/11/2019 at 3:31pm | View PDF

In earlier columns, I discussed disabilities that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may consider as presumptive to where and when a veteran served.

However, in this edition I would like to discuss a presumptive that pertains to all service members who meet eligibility requirements. In September of 2008, the VA published regulations to add Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), commonly called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, to the presumptive disability list. ALS is a neuromuscular disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, and is usually fatal. Veterans diagnosed with ALS can receive disability payments, and health care benefits.

While the cause of ALS is unknown, statistical evidence indicates that service in the military can result in the development of the disease. Apart from those with the exceptions listed below, all veterans will qualify for service connection for ALS with the Department of Veterans Affairs:

• Unless there is evidence that ALS was not incurred during or aggravated by active military, naval or air service;

• Unless there is affirmative evidence that ALS is due to the veteran’s own willful misconduct; or

• Unless the veteran did not have active, continuous service of 90 days or more.

What this means is that unless there is clear evidence to the effect otherwise, any veteran who develops ALS at any time after discharge or release from active military, naval or air service lasting longer than 90 days of continuous service is to be presumed to have a service-connected disability. There is no time limit after service if diagnosed with ALS to apply for benefits with the Department of Veterans Affairs. If you need assistance in completing an application for benefits, we are here to assist.

In addition, for the spouse of a veteran who died because of ALS being a contributing factor to their death, you may be eligible to apply for a benefit as well. Please contact our office with any questions you may have.

Ken Cruickshank, the Veterans Services Officer for Tulare County, is a retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer. Contact him at the Veterans Services Office at 3348 W. Mineral King Ave., Visalia; by phone at (559) 713-2880; or by email at


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