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Understanding Veterans’ Risk for ALS


Veterans are twice as likely to develop Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in comparison to those who have not served in the military. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, resulting in muscle deterioration and loss of movement. 

While there are currently no cures for ALS, symptomatic treatments are available and there are numerous clinical studies working to better understand the disease and how to treat it. Learn more here.

Understanding causes

The exact causes of ALS are unknown, as are the reasons why veterans are at an increased risk for developing ALS. However, we do know that:

  • Only 5-10% of ALS cases have currently been linked as familial, meaning it has been shown to run in families;
  • The remaining 90-95% of ALS cases are defined sporadic, meaning no clear identifying cause of the disease, or genetic link, is known;
  • ALS is not contagious.
ALS Association (2013) Defense Health Research Programs: Relevance to National Security and Military Families.

Risk factors & VA benefits

It’s unclear what about military service may trigger the development of the disease; it may include trauma related to service, infections, extreme physical exertion or exposure to environmental toxins and heavy metals. Per the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), qualified military veterans with ALS and their families are eligible for presumptive service-connected benefits. Veterans with ALS may also find this book helpful as a guide to understanding VA benefits. 

Definitive predictions about risk factors are constrained due to limited sample sizes. Participation in studies as early as possible after diagnosis can help researchers better identify factors that contribute to risks for ALS. To learn more about how you can be part of the process of finding a cure:

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Connect with an I AM ALS Navigator today

Have questions? Call us at 866.942.6257 between 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. or email us

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