(Washington, DC) -- Vietnam Veterans of
America (VVA) today congratulated Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony
Principi for moving quickly to declare amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS,
also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease) a direct service-connected
disability among deployed Desert Storm veterans, and for his commitment
to compensate veterans and their survivors.
"For years, the veterans community has
maintained that deployed Gulf War veterans were dying of this disease at
a greater rate than their nondeployed brethren," said Tom Corey, VVA's
national president. "Now we know our fears were justified."
The preliminary results of a joint DoD-VA
funded study--to be published within the next few months--revealed that
at least 40 Gulf War veterans who deployed to the Gulf developed ALS.
Individual veterans, veterans’ groups,
and private-sector researchers have for years maintained that ALS was
far more prevalent among Desert Storm veterans than the Pentagon or the
VA would admit. Congressional hearings in 1996-1997, chaired by
Connecticut congressman Christopher Shays, helped propel the issue to
forefront of medical research.
Questions remain about ALS causality,
and Corey called for increased federal spending on a host of military
service-related medical conditions.
"What we know beyond all doubt is that
military service carries with it special hazards that often remain
undetected until years, even decades, after the fact. Now is the time
for the Congress and the administration to create and properly fund a
National Institute of Veterans Health within NIH to pursue research and
treatment programs for all of these service-related maladies."