Recently, two members of TMA’s Military Veterans with Myositis Affinity Group were successful in acquiring disability benefits from the Veterans Administration. These benefits are significant. Not only are these former service members eligible to receive complete healthcare services and disability compensation, they can also access important benefits such as a travel allowance for medical appointments, medical equipment, a disability housing grant to adapt their home, stipends for their spouse as a caregiver, and a variety of other assistance.

This mission for these two Vietnam-era veterans was not easy, however. In both cases, it took more than a decade for the VA to agree that their inclusion body myositis (IBM) was a service-connected condition and grant them full benefits. In the end, both men required the services of an experienced VA claims agent, who is himself a veteran, to accomplish the goal. 

Augie DeAugustinis was a Navy pilot for 20 years before retiring to a career with a commercial airline. In 2007, he was diagnosed with IBM and filed his first claim with the VA in 2012. After a second claim in 2018 and two rounds of appeals, he was finally granted 100% disability last year.

Larry Leisher, who spent nine years in the Air Force, was diagnosed in 2005 and filed his first claim for VA benefits in 2006. After two subsequent claims in 2011 and 2019 and three rounds of appeals, he too was granted 100% disability just this year.

This long and challenging journey is a typical one for military veterans living with IBM who try to convince the Veterans Administration that they deserve these benefits. To date, TMA is aware of only a handful of individuals who have accomplished this feat.

According to Kerry Baker, the agent who successfully represented Augie and Larry in their appeals to the VA, this is because IBM is a condition that doesn’t show itself until well after the service member is discharged, so the service connection is not necessarily obvious.

“In most cases, you need three things to show service connection in order to claim VA disability benefits,” Kerry says. “You need an in-service event, a diagnosis of what you’re currently claiming, and a medical link between the two.”

There are other types of claims, however, that don’t require that medical link. Perhaps the most famous of these is Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant used widely during the Vietnam Conflict that has been shown to be highly toxic to humans. Vietnam veterans who served in areas where Agent Orange was used can claim benefits for an array of health conditions without having to show that direct medical link. By law, conditions like diabetes, lung cancer, heart disease, prostate cancer, and others are entitled to “presumptive” service connection for these vets, meaning the law presumes they are causally related to the exposure during military service.

Other disabling conditions are also designated presumptively service connected. Among these is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Veterans who have ALS need only demonstrate that they served in the military for a minimum of 90 days to be granted full disability.

Interestingly, ALS shares some biological similarities with IBM. And like ALS, IBM has also been shown to be more prevalent in those who have served in the military than in the general population. And this may be the key to benefits for IBM. In filing appeals for both Augie and Larry, Kerry provided evidence in the form of letters from two prominent myositis neurologists affirming this connection.

Kerry is careful to stress that just because a couple guys with IBM produced these letters and convinced a judge that they should receive benefits does not guarantee that others who make this appeal will be successful.

“The Board of judges are independent,” Kerry says. “One judge may decide a case one way, and the one sitting next to them can decide it completely opposite. It’s a solid argument to make, but I don’t want to rest my laurels on that alone.”

In Larry’s case, as well, the judge specifically stated that her decision to award him benefits could not be used as a precedent for other cases.

This is why a group of veterans with IBM—including Augie and Larry—are vigorously advocating for legislation to change VA regulations. More than three dozen of these men have signed their name to a letter petitioning Congress to amend the section of the law that provides for disability benefits for those with ALS to also include IBM as presumptively service connected.

If this effort is successful, military veterans with IBM will no longer need to struggle for years and years to receive the benefits they deserve. They will, by law, be awarded a service connection for their IBM on their initial claim, no denial, no appeals.

Kerry Baker is a Senior Appellate Counsel and accredited Claims Agent for Hill & Ponton, Attorneys at Law as well as a service-connected, combat-disabled veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He previously worked with veterans through the Disabled American Veterans and the Veterans Benefits Administration before moving to the private sector.

Augie DeAugustinis and Larry Leisher are active members of TMA. Larry is co-leader of the TMA Northeast Florida Regional Support Group, Augie served for seven years—three of these as chair—on TMA’s Board of Directors, and both are members of TMA’s Military Veterans with Myositis Affinity Group.

TMA’s Military Veterans with Myositis Affinity Group meets virtually on the second Saturday of the month at 12noon ET. Kerry, Augie, and Larry discussed VA benefits for veterans with IBM in a TMA Empowerment Clinic webinar on Wednesday, November 15. Click here to view this webinar.

View past sessions of TMA’s Military Veterans with Myositis Affinity Group meetings here.

Letter from Dr. Tom Lloyd

Letter from Dr. Todd Cohen

29 comments on “IBM patients battle for veterans benefits”

  1. 1
    Charles Bruyea on November 27, 2023

    I have IBM and would like to discuss how I can possibly file a supplemental claim or an appeal to the board of Veterans’ Appeals. They denied service connection for inclusion body myositis (IBM).

    1. 2
      Richard Burleigh on December 15, 2023

      Thank you Charles for your service. My name is Dick and I am one of the 3 dozen petitioners to get IBM accepted by the VA as a presumptive service connection. Before resubmitting your claim you should review the various information available at the TMA website and get yourself a good VSO representative. If you send me your email address I can point you to the links to get the TMA info. Good luck, Brother! -Dick

    2. 3
      Alicia Lowther on March 19, 2024

      Thank you for your service, Charles. There is a monthly Zoom meeting for Veterans With Myositis. It is the 2nd Saturday of each month . Much information is shared to assist veterans during the two hour meeting. Jim Cressman is the moderator. Email and he can add you to the growing list of participants so you will receive the link.

    3. 4
      Alicia Lowther on June 8, 2024

      Email Kerry Baker at Hill and Ponton.

  2. 5
    Peter A. Brown on December 2, 2023

    You might be interested in my IBM / VA recent experience: I was diagnosed with IBM about 14 years ago by Dr. Thomas Lloyd. It has progressed each year, but I was still able to walk and drive my car until I broke my leg on April 9th of this year. I spent the next 3½ months mostly lying on my back and not putting much pressure on my leg and only receiving a slight bit of PT. I haven’t been able to walk since then. I applied for VA benefits, filled out all the paperwork, including a copy of our 2022 income tax, and was approved for comprehensive benefits in June. In October, I got a letter from the VA, saying that my benefits were denied, since the income tax form indicated that we were making too much money to qualify. Why they did not say that in June is hard to understand. Anyway, when I called the Lebanon VA Center and complained, a VA rep came down to Lancaster the same day to tell me that she thought the VA had made a mistake. About a week later I got a letter saying that all benefits had been restored.

    My Army experience: After I got my 1A draft notice, I applied to an invitation to audition at USMA, West Point, NY. They were looking for a person as a Chaplain’s Assistant / Organist & Choirmaster at the Post Chapel. I won the audition and was told to volunteer at my draft board in Freeport, Long Island, in June, 1967. From there I went to basic training at Fort Gordon, Georgia for 10 weeks, followed by two years at West Point. I am sure that my IBM had nothing to do with my Army experience.

    1. 6
      Karen Buch on January 17, 2024

      Did you receive benefits retroactive to your IBM diagnosis or just starting upon approval of your claim? Did they consider IBM to be 70% or more service connected? Is there a pension benefit associated with your claim approval for you as the vet and a surviving spouse (in the event you as the vet would pass away before your spouse)?

    2. 7
      Bobby Villar on February 7, 2024

      I am literally like woah, really? So they said you were service linked and how? I am wondering what you provided to get your claim approved. If there is any information you could provide, that would be very helpful.

      Thank you and good luck to you.

    3. 8
      Jim Cressman on March 25, 2024

      My name is Jim Cressman and I host the TMA monthly Zoom meeting – Military Veterans with Myositis Affinity Group. After years and years of researching the IBM service connection – I will share with you that recent studies at Boston University have concluded that military veterans are at an increased risk of developing IBM (and ALS)… so your service connection, regardless of your MOS, AFSC, NEC or other military duty designation are not the determining factor. Please contact me and I will add you Email address to my contact list and zoom meeting login link. You will find our zoom meetings are the best resource anywhere for veterans with IBM and help you with any disability claim you may want to consider.

    4. 9
      Linda Kobert on March 26, 2024

      You can join TMA’s Military Veterans with Myositis Affinity Group Meeting at this link:

  3. 10
    Tony Favela on January 12, 2024

    I would love to help out. I have been diagnosed with Dermatomyositis and have its service connected with the VA, and I am currently looking for a higher percentage. I am currently going through the MEB/PEB right now. 47 years old and started to get sick, with rashes, pain, and fatigue on my last deployment to the Middle East in 2020 -2021

    1. 11
      Jim Cressman on March 25, 2024

      Tony – My name is Jim Cressman and I host a monthly zoom meeting for Veterans with Myositis. (TMA Military Veterans with Myositis Affinity Group)
      Although most of the veterans deal with Inclusion Body Myositis – we do, indeed hear from veterans with DM also – – and I believe many of them are searching for a DM Service Connection. If you would be willing to share your story to help other DM veterans submit claims, we would be grateful for your joining our zoom meeting and sharing your story.
      Please contact me at …

    2. 12
      Linda Kobert on March 25, 2024

      Tony, You can join TMA’s Military Veterans with Myositis Affinity Group Meeting at this link:

  4. 13
    Karen Buch on January 17, 2024

    I am just starting the process of helping my vet dad apply for service connection due to IBM, type 2 DM and other health conditions. Any assistance would be appreciated.

    His IBM diagnosis was back in the 1990s. He was rated 0% connected upon discharge so assumed he was not eligible to be reevaluated. Is it still worth applying? He is 81 now. If approved, would it be retroactive to the diagnosis or just the start date of the application?

    1. 14
      Jim Cressman on March 25, 2024

      Karen – My name is Jim Cressman and I host a monthly zoom meeting:
      Military Veterans with Myositis Affinity Group.
      THANK YOU for taking care of your dad! It is ABSOLUTELY worth applying for claims. There are numerous resources available for your dad and plenty of assistance available to you to help you file that claim. Please contact me and I will add your name to our contact list. I will send you the information about joining our Monthly zoom meeting and I believe you will find it extremely helpful for your dad.

    2. 15
      Linda Kobert on March 25, 2024

      Karen, You can join TMA’s Military Veterans with Myositis Affinity Group Meeting at this link:

    3. 16
      Alicia Lowther on June 8, 2024

      Email Kerry Baker at Hill and Ponton.

  5. 17
    byron roshto on January 30, 2024

    Hello I am a 75 Year old US Army 11B Vet who served 1969-1970 in documented Agent Orange theater. I have Ischemic CAD and IBM diagnosis documentation and plan to file a first time Claim with the VA next week. It surprises me that many Vets are being denied their Claim simply because the VA has not gotten around to adding IBM to the Presumptive Agent Orange illness list. Any advice befor I meet with the VA? Thank you for any recommendations. Byron

    1. 18
      Jim Cressman on March 25, 2024

      Hello Byron – WELCOME HOME!
      My name is Jim Cressman and I host a monthly zoom meeting for Military Veterans with Myositis Affinity Group. I, too, have Inclusion Body Myositis and I have spearheaded a campaign to get the Veterans Benefits Administration to add IBM to the list of presumptive diseases.. It’s been a long and arduous task – but the effort continues and we will not give up. Please contact me and I will add your name to my contact list and provide the login information for joining our zoom meeting. (Next zoom meeting will be April 13, 2024 at 12:00 Noon – Eastern time). I think you will find it is the best resource for information for veterans with IBM anywhere in the U.S.

    2. 19
      Linda Kobert on March 25, 2024

      Byron, You can join TMA’s Military Veterans with Myositis Affinity Group Meeting at this link:

  6. 20
    Bobby Villar on February 7, 2024

    Hello, I was a Navy Nuclear Electrician Submariner and have been diagnosed with IBM when I was 46 years old. My denial letter came in and I was denied due to IBM being idiopathic. I do have favorable finding of toxic exposure risk activity due to my MOS. I was not exposed to any of the presumptive conditions such as Agent Orange and was stationed in San Diego with Pacific Ocean area deployments. I have no family history on any side even with exposure for my brothers who served in Gulf War, family in Air Force, and Marines. Our main difference is my work in the military. Sadly, I did contact Hill and Ponton but did not even get past their questionnaire. If it truly can be treated the same as ALS, is there any resources I can use to file my supplemental claim. I am giving up on finding VA lawyer especially since I was turned away so fast on just the 1st call. I am trying another but with our condition being idiopathic, I am not expecting much or for it to be resolved quickly.
    Are there any valuable resources I could use to help me file my supplemental claim? I am literally googling everything I can in regards to studies and any relation related to autoimmune diseases and service link – “A correlation therefore cannot be established with diagnosis and exposure to toxic risk activities.” “We did not find a link between your medical condition and military service.” This is my obstacle of challenging via supplemental claim.
    Good luck to all us other veterans battling IBM and other autoimmune diseases. It really has been rough on so many of us.

    1. 21
      Jim Cressman on March 25, 2024

      My name is Jim Cressman and I host a monthly TMA Zoom meeting – “Military Veterans with Myositis Affinity Group”. There is an enormous amount of research and information that may help you file, and possibly be granted, a disability claim for IBM. With research information recently obtained and shared with other veterans, there has been a notable increase in the number of veterans being granted “Service Connection” for IBM. Our monthly meetings are the best resource for support, information and guidance for filing VA claims/appeals anywhere. Please contact me at and I will add your name to my contact list and provide a link to join our zoom meetings. Hope you will join us.

    2. 22
      Linda Kobert on March 26, 2024

      You can join TMA’s Military Veterans with Myositis Affinity Group Meeting at this link:

    3. 23
      Richard Burleigh on May 10, 2024

      Hello Shipmate! Bobby, my name is Dick Burleigh and I too am a former nuke Bubblehead out of SD and a few other places. I am an IBM vet and am one of less that 10 that was granted a service connection for IBM. I used the method recommended by Jim Cressman and Hill & Pontin and submitted it via a VFW VSO. As far as I know, I am the only IBM vet granted a service connection on the first submittal. I did not have to appeal. I urge you to attend our meetings and contact Jim Cressman as well! Good luck Brother!

    4. 24
      Alicia Lowther on June 8, 2024

      Email Kerry Baker at Hill and Ponton.

  7. 25
    Byron Roshto on March 8, 2024

    Hello I am a Veteran with Myositis and wondering if any fellow Veterans have participated in a IBM Clinical trial, and if so might they have any comments to share?

    1. 26
      Jim Cressman on March 25, 2024

      Hello Byron –
      My name is Jim Cressman and I host a monthly Zoom meeting for veterans with myositis.
      “TMA Veterans with Myositis Affinity Group”. These zoom meetings are the absolute best resource for information, support and guidance from other veterans. Although i have not participated in any clinical trials, there are other veterans within our group that are participating. I think you may find it highly beneficial to join us and ask them directly to share their thoughts and experiences.
      Please contact me and I will provide the link to join our zoom meetings.

    2. 27
      Linda Kobert on March 26, 2024

      You can join TMA’s Military Veterans with Myositis Affinity Group Meeting at this link:

  8. 28
    Alicia Lowther on March 19, 2024

    Title 38 Section 3.318 should be amended to include Inclusion Body Myositis as presumptive service connected. Veterans who have honorably served our country receive the benefits they deserve. Sad that they have to fight both this debilitating disease AND the VA.

  9. 29
    byron roshto on April 23, 2024

    Jim and Linda, just want to let you know that I did not see your comments until today. (My fault of course). I stumbled onto your replies today and am not sure how to maintain ease of communication at this point other than your Zoom calls which likely will be difficult for
    Me to attend. I am now active and participating in the Abcuro ABC008 IBM Clinical Trial at OHSU in Portland, OR, so hopefully it becomes beneficial to those of us with IBM. I have had one injection of 3 Shots to date. This Clinical trial is comprehensive and will be going on for the next year and one half approximately. There are about 130 or so of us enrolled, spread across the US / worldwide and we are all at various stages with IBM and within the study. Concurrently I did recently and finally file all of my VA Claim and Disability documentation due to my 1969 Agent Orange exposure and Army Records verification. I anticipate a long and challenging process with the VA since they do mot include IBM on the presumptive list. I do have some other health issues that challenge me (some on the presumptive list). I am happy to share My clinical Trial experience as it transpires, but I will need to first consult with the sponsor for compliance and in order to ensure my participation status. It may be easier to email with you periodically Jim. (See Below)
    Thank you both and kind regards.
    Byron Email;

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