Cisneros and Fitzpatrick Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Extend Benefits to Families of Veterans Affected by ALS

October 18, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC –  Today, Representative Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (CA-39) and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), co-chair of the Congressional ALS Caucus, introduced the “The Justice for ALS Veterans Act of 2019.” The bipartisan legislation extends benefits to the surviving spouse and family of a veteran who has passed from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), regardless of how long the veteran had ALS.

“Watching a loved one’s life tragically cut short by ALS takes incredible strength and courage,” said Rep. Cisneros. “No one should have to take on the emotional and financial burden of this disease alone, especially not the families of our veterans, who are twice as likely to develop ALS as those who have not served. As a member of the Congressional ALS Caucus, I’m proud to join Congressman Fitzpatrick in this common-sense legislation to ensure the families of our veterans receive the support they deserve.”

“ALS is a disease that comes with a terrible burden and challenges no family should have to deal with, especially the families of veterans. As Co-Chair of the Congressional ALS Caucus, I’m proud to introduce the Justice for ALS Veterans Act to help those veteran families that ALS leaves behind,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “Veterans and their families deserve all the help we can provide. This bill can help ease the burden from losing a loved one to ALS.”

“Survivors should not be denied a benefit others 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 Heather Ansley, PVA Associate Executive Director. “We thank Representatives Cisneros and Fitzpatrick for introducing this important legislation, and urge the House to pass it quickly.”

“ALS affects the entire family emotionally, physically and financially forever,” said Jann Vasiloff, surviving spouse of George Vasiloff, a USMC veteran that passed away from ALS in 2015. “This legislation will ease the financial burden for surviving spouses, and give Veterans diagnosed with ALS peace of mind knowing their loved ones will have resources. Thank you, Congressman Cisneros, for your compassion and attention to this important issue, and for sponsoring this legislation.”

”The ALS Association wholeheartedly supports this bill to increase compensation for surviving spouses of veterans who die from ALS,” said Calaneet Balas, President and CEO of The ALS Association. “Veterans are twice as likely to die of ALS as civilians. 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.”

Currently, veterans afflicted with a service-connected disability, including ALS, are only eligible for increased compensation if the service-connected disability was rated a total disability for a continuous period of at least eight years immediately prior to death. The average life expectancy of a person with ALS, however, is two to five years from the time of diagnosis. The Justice for ALS Veterans Act of 2019 would automatically provide increased compensation to the surviving spouses and families of veterans who have passed away from ALS. The bill is endorsed by the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the ALS Association.

Rep. Cisneros is a Navy veteran who serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and House Armed Services Committee. Rep. Cisneros is a cosponsor of H.R. 1407, the ALS Disability Insurance Access Act of 2019, to eliminate the five-month Social Security Disability Insurance waiting period for ALS patients. He is also a member of the Congressional ALS Caucus.

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