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Lou Gehrig’s Disease Now ‘Compensable’ Illness for Active-Duty Vets ; HBO to Air Program on Arlington’s ‘Saddest Acre’

October 6, 2008

Veterans with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) may receive badly needed support for themselves and their families after the Department of Veterans Affairs announcement on Sept. 23 that ALS will become a presumptively compensable illness for all veterans with 90 days or more of continuous active service.

VA Secretary Dr. James Peake based his decision primarily on a November 2006 report by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine that concluded there is a link between military service and ALS.

The report, titled Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in Veterans: Review of the Scientific Literature, analyzed numerous previous studies on the issue and concluded “there is limited and suggestive evidence of an association between military service and later development of ALS.”

Since ALS is a disease that progresses rapidly once diagnosed, Peake realized that an easier and faster claims process was in order.

ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neuromuscular disease that affects about 20,000 to 30,000 people of all races and ethnicities in the United States. It is almost always fatal. It causes degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that leads to muscle weakness, muscle atrophy, and spontaneous muscle activity. The cause of ALS is not yet known, and there is no effective treatment.

The new regulation applies to all applications for benefits received by VA on or after Sept. 23 or that are pending on that date before the VA, the U.S .Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, or the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Also, VA will work to identify and contact veterans with ALS, including those whose claims were previously denied, through direct mailings and other outreach programs. To view the entire regulation published in the Federal Register, go online to www.federalregister.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2008-21998_PI.pdf.

For more information on VA’s disability compensation program, go online to www.va.gov or call (800) 827-1000.

Next Monday, HBO will air Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery. Section 60, the final resting place for those who died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, is often called “the saddest acre in America.”

Unobtrusively chronicling the most intimate moments of relatives and friends mourning and honoring their loved ones at those graves, Section 60 is a powerful account of those left behind.

A family sings “Happy Birthday” to a father who would have turned 30 on that day. A father camps out on his son’s grave with a quilt, a bottle of bourbon and one of two cigars his son had sent from Iraq. Two mothers take turns mourning at the graves of their sons, killed when they were 20 and 21. A man kneels at the grave of his fiancee, a nurse killed three months earlier. A widow and her young children lay candy canes on each grave, wishing each soldier a Merry Christmas.

The documentary, by Emmy Award-winning filmmakers Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill, was created with the respect and professionalism evident in their previous works and, in the words of the sister of a fallen soldier, portrays Section 60 as “one of the most honorable places in America.”

Recheck beneficiaries

Veterans who receive military retirement account statements should review the back of the statement and verify their designated beneficiary. Some veterans, especially those in the Military Officers Association of America, have complained to the Department of Defense that beneficiary changes have been made without their knowledge or permission.

– U.S. Submarine Veterans

SUBVETS Groton will hold its monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m. today in the group’s clubhouse, at 40 School St. The monthly Subvet World War II social and luncheon is set for tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. in the clubhouse. The dinner of the month for members and guests will be held on Oct. 18, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., and the Holland Club luncheon will be held on Oct. 21 at 11:30 a.m., both at the clubhouse. For reservations call (860) 445-5262.

– American Legion

Post 15 meets tonight at 7 at 1016 Main St. in East Greenwich. Post 39 will meet Thursday at 7 p.m. at 1958 Kingstown Rd., Peace Dale. Fierlit-Korzen Post, 46 Central St., Central Falls will hold a yard sale on Sunday at 9 a.m., with proceeds benefiting community and Legion programs.

– Fleet Reserve Association

Blackstone Valley Branch 132 meets this evening at 7 in VFW Post 306, 171 Fountain St., Pawtucket.

– Veterans of Foreign Wars

Gilbert Auxiliary Unit 4487 will conduct a bingo at the Rhode Island Veterans Home, on Metacom Avenue in Bristol, at 1 p.m. tomorrow. Kelley-Gazzerro Post 2812, 1418 Plainfield St., Cranston, will meet Sunday at 9:30 a.m. Gatchell Auxiliary Unit 306 will hold a bingo Sunday at 171 Fountain St., Pawtucket, at 1 p.m.

– Disabled Veterans

Maurice Pion Chapter 17 will meet tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at the Crompton Veterans Organization, on Hepburn Street in West Warwick. Mount Pleasant Chapter 21 will meet Thursday at 7 p.m. in VFW Post 10011, at 354 Fruit Hill Ave. in North Providence.

– Korean War Veterans

Northern Rhode Island Chapter 3 will meet Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Chepachet Senior Center, 1210 Putnam Pike.

– Coast Guard Auxiliary

Flotilla 78 and guests will meet Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Aspray Boathouse, Pawtuxet Village, Warwick. For more information go to www.cgaux0708.org or call (401) 884-5638.

– Reserve Officers

The Rhode Island Department’s executive committee will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Harwood Army Reserve Center, 385 Niagara St., Providence.

– Military Officers’ Assn.

Narragansett Bay Chapter will hold a dinner meeting Friday at My Mary’s restaurant, 336 Post Rd., Westerly; reservations must be made by today by phoning Bob at (401) 294-4824. New members are welcome; eligible are those who were commissioned or warrant officers in active service, the Guard or Reserve or NOAA and the Public Health Service, as well as their surviving spouses. Call Bud Cooney, chapter president, at (401) 364-8969 or send e-mail to budhamcg@aol.com.

– Retired Enlisted Assn.

Narragansett Bay Chapter 79 will meet at 1 p.m. Saturday at Brewski’s restaurant, 10 Maple Ave., Middletown.

George W. Reilly can be reached at VeteransColumn@verizon.net or by writing to The Providence Journal, 75 Fountain St., Providence, RI 02902.

(c) 2008 Providence Journal. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.




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