WASHINGTON - A recent study conducted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has concluded that there is "a limited and suggestive association between the development of ALS and military service."
At the request of the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), the Institute of Medicine (IOM) conducted a review of the few existing peer-reviewed studies on ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in the veteran population to ascertain if an association exists between military service and the development of ALS and to make recommendations, if an association is indicated, that would help to identify risk factors.
In the IOM report released recently, entitled Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in Veterans: Review of the Scientific Literature, the IOM Committee concluded that there was a limited and suggestive association between the development of ALS and military service. ALS is a rare and fatal neurological degenerative disease with no known cause or cure.
"Although more research needs to be conducted to identify possible military-related risk factors that cause ALS in veterans, the IOM’s determination that there is suggestive evidence of an association paves a path for the VA to make benefits available on a presumptive basis for those whose service in the military may have caused the disease to develop," said National Commander Paul A. Morin.
This latest finding was most influenced by a 2005 Harvard University study that indicated that people with military service were more likely to have died from ALS than those with no prior military service.
"Even studies conducted within the veteran population have indicated that war veterans may have a greater chance of developing ALS," Morin added. "The 1991 Gulf War veterans are twice as likely as their non-deployed counterparts to develop the disease. In Gulf War veterans with ALS in particular, the disease has manifested at an earlier age than it would normally.
"The American Legion is hopeful that IOM’s conclusions will guide researchers in identifying the risk factors that make service members more susceptible to this horrific disease," Morin said.
"Identifying these risk factors will help in determining necessary protective measures that could prevent the illness from ever developing in veterans. We urge VA to conduct studies to determine if specific theaters of conflict present greater risk factors and we hope that research on ALS in veterans might possibly lead to a cure for this horrific disease."