Legislation to give additional financial benefits to veterans’ survivors
Washington, D.C. (Nov. 10, 2022) – As the nation prepares to observe Veterans Day, the ALS Association and Paralyzed Veterans of America call on Congress to pass the Justice for ALS Veterans Act (H.R.5607/S.3483), which allows survivors of veterans who died from service-connected ALS to receive a small boost to the rate of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), which is commonly known as the “DIC kicker.”
ALS is a fatal progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It carries an average life expectancy of three to five years, with U.S. veterans twice as likely of being diagnosed than the civilian population. The disease has no known cause or cure and usually calls on spouses and family members to sacrifice their careers to take care of the veteran, resulting in a loss of income and making re-entry into the workforce years later much more challenging.
When an individual serves their country, their family serves, too. Congress should address the financial needs of spouses and dependent children and parents of veterans who passed because of service-related ALS.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes ALS as a presumptive service-connected disease at 100 percent disability. In addition to the DIC benefits available to eligible survivors, the VA 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. 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.
The Justice for ALS Veterans Act would waive this eight-year requirement and ensure families of all veterans who die of ALS receive this boosted benefit.
“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, 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.”
"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, PVA Executive Director. “We urge Congress to quickly pass the Justice for ALS Veterans Act, which would allow these survivors to receive the additional compensation they earned, and need.”
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Over the course of the disease, people lose the ability to move, to speak, and eventually, to breathe. On average, it takes about a year before a final ALS diagnosis is made.
ABOUT THE ALS ASSOCIATION:
The ALS Association is the largest philanthropic funder of ALS research in the world. The Association funds global research collaborations, assists people with ALS and their families through its nationwide network of care and certified clinical care centers, and advocates for better public policies for people with ALS. The ALS Association is working to make ALS a livable disease while urgently searching for new treatments and a cure. For more information about The ALS Association, visit our website at www.als.org
ABOUT PARALYZED VETERANS OF AMERICA:
Paralyzed Veterans of America is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or diseases. The organization ensures veterans receive the benefits earned through service to our nation; monitors their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funds research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.
As a life-long partner and advocate for veterans and all people with disabilities, PVA also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces, and provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation. With more than 70 offices and 33 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans of America serves veterans, their families, and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Learn more at PVA.org.