Sens. Coons and Murkowski introduce bill to extend benefits to surviving spouses of veterans impacted by ALS

Post Date: December 19, 2019
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 Paralyzed Veterans of America is pleased to announce the introduction of the “The Justice for ALS Veterans Act of 2019” by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to help ensure surviving spouses and families of veterans who die from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) receive all of the benefits available through the Department of Veterans Affairs to survivors. As previously reported, the House companion bill was introduced in mid-October by U.S. Representatives Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (D-Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).

Since 2008, ALS has been classified as a presumptive, service-connected disease so surviving spouses would most likely be eligible to receive basic DIC benefits. However, under current law, a higher rate of DIC (DIC kicker) is only payable if the veteran was rated totally disabled for a continuous period of at least eight years immediately preceding death.

Unfortunately, ALS is a disease that progresses rapidly once it is diagnosed, and most patients die within two to five years. Some veterans may live longer but the overwhelming majority of veterans with the disease do not live long enough to meet the eligibility criteria required for the DIC kicker. The bipartisan and now bicameral Justice for ALS Veterans Act would extend benefits to the surviving spouses and families of veterans who have passed away from ALS, regardless of how long their veterans lived with the disease.

“Survivors should not be deprived of benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs simply because the service-connected disease their veterans obtained made it nearly impossible for them to meet an eight-year life expectancy requirement,” said Heather Ansley, PVA’s associate executive director of government relations. “We thank Senators Coons and Murkowski for introducing the Justice for ALS Veterans Act and urge members of Congress in both chambers to quickly pass this important piece of legislation.”

PVA is committed to supporting veterans with ALS and their families. Learn more.