Thursday, July 23, 2009

Congressional Multiple Sclerosis Briefing

Several Members of Congress and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) researcher spoke yesterday at a briefing on Capitol Hill to discuss multiple sclerosis, its impact and its prevalence. The well-attended briefing focused on the increased prevalence of the disease among U.S. veterans and the need for increased federal investment in MS research.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, in cooperation with Congressmen Russ Carnahan (MO) and Michael Burgess, M.D. (TX), co-chairs of the Congressional Multiple Sclerosis Caucus, hosted the briefing for Members of Congress and congressional staff. Congressmen Carnahan and Burgess both addressed the audience and spoke of the importance of this issue and their work in Congress to address MS.

Top priority issues discussed included the National MS and Parkinson’s Disease Registries Act
(H.R. 1362/S. 1273), that would create a national coordinated system to collect and analyze data on MS or Parkinson’s in the United States, and the pursuit of a $15 million appropriation specifically for MS research in the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) at the Department of Defense, which is funded under the annual Defense appropriations bill.

Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy (OH) is living with multiple sclerosis and was elected to her first term in the United States House of Representatives in 2008. At the briefing, Representative Kilroy spoke about how living with MS has impacted her life but not stopped her from pursuing her goals.

Emerging evidence shows a potential link between the incidence of multiple sclerosis and combat service. A recent study in the Annals of Neurology identified 5,345 cases of MS among U.S. veterans that were deemed "service-connected." Dr. Heidi Maloni, an Adjunct Professor of Nursing at The Catholic University of America and Trinity University DC and the National
Clinical Nursing Director at the Department of Veterans Affairs MS Center of Excellence-East in Baltimore, shared her expertise on MS, discussed her experiences working with members of the U.S. military and their families living with this disease, and presented findings and theories about the increased risk of MS among U.S. combat veterans.

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