Sunday, May 10, 2009

ALS Claims Yet Another Gulf War Veteran -- Still no Effective Treatments

Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes

( -- Published today in select news outlets in the U.S. and the Arabian Gulf States, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Harold Jackson writes a powerful commentary and eulogy of Homer Pledger, Jr. -- a former Army Staff Sergeant and yet another veteran of the 1991 Gulf War to die from ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease).

As Jackson notes, ALS is an incredibly cruel neuro-degenerative disease, with its ever-encroaching paralysis that leaves its victims to finally suffocate in a few short years, in full awareness of what is happening to them.

Testifying before Congress in July 2007, retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General
Thomas "Mick" Micolajcik told an enrapt audience in the U.S. House Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing room of his personal experiences suffering from ALS, and calling for treatments.

General Mick's poignant testimony included the following:
"Military veterans, like me, face a higher risk of this relentless killer [ALS].

"50 percent die in one to three years, another 20 percent die within five years and only 10 percent may live to 10 years.

"It was learned in 2001 that Gulf War veterans have two times the incident rate of the general population..."

General Mick then went on to pointedly address the stunning facts that federal agencies only "dabble" in ALS research, there is no one entity in charge of ALS research, there is no existing strategic plan for ALS research, and there has been only one drug developed in the last 70 years and it is of questionable value.

None of us who met him could ever forget General Mick and his valiant efforts on behalf of his fellow veterans -- but I am afraid that Congress has already forgotten him, and the rest of us Gulf War veterans.

It is true that in November 2008, the federal VA finally granted "presumptive service-connection" for U.S. military veterans with ALS, just a week after being informed of research regarding ALS in Gulf War veterans that was presented to the Congressionally-mandated Federal Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses.

However, like the rest of Gulf War veterans suffering from Gulf War illness, no new treatments have been developed to help ALS victims, no new strategies have been implemented, and funding for new Congressionally Directed Medical Research focused on treatments for ALS and Gulf War Illness
continues to be at the bottom of Congress' spending pile.

How much must our veterans and their families suffer before Congress moves to implement the recommendations made to its members on July 26, 2007?

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