The prevalence of Veterans with multiple sclerosis has increased in recent years. In fact, a 2019 report revealed that the rate of MS among Veterans using the VA Health Care System (VHA) increased from 141 per 100,000 Veterans in 1999 to 262 per 100,000 Veterans in 2014. But only about 40% of Veterans with MS — approximately 20,000 — receive their care from the VHA. So, the real number of Veterans currently living with MS is likely much higher.
If you or someone you love is a Veteran with MS, several organizations, including the National MS Society, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), can help. You’ll find resources from all three below.
Help from the VA’s MS Centers of Excellence
The Department of Veterans Affairs established the MS Centers of Excellence (MSCoE) in 2003. The organization is dedicated to furthering understanding of MS and its impact on Veterans, and to promoting research into the causes of and treatments for MS. Under its umbrella, a network of around 70 regional programs strives to minimize disability and maximize quality of life for Veterans with MS. They also answer common questions about MS and military service.
In 2019, the National MS Society signed a memorandum of agreement with the MSCoE. Through this partnership, we improve care, expand resources and provide education and support for Veterans living with MS and their families.
To find the nearest VA clinics and MS Centers of Excellence, visit the MSCoE on the VA website or reach out via email to MSCentersofExcellence@va.gov.
If you are a Veteran with MS, you may qualify for VA disability benefits. Access to VA healthcare is based upon enrollment eligibility and discharge status from active military service. To find out if you qualify, read eligibility criteria online or call the VA benefits line at 800-827-1000.
The VA offers a variety of medical and support services and programs for Veterans with MS. Some of these benefits are based on level or percent of disability. Others may be based on service-connection.
Symptoms of MS often occur years before a diagnosis is made. If you are a Veteran diagnosed with MS within 7 years of your separation from the military, the Veterans Health Administration may classify your illness as related to your military service and award you a “service-connected” disability. Service-connection is given for disabilities that were not diagnosed while on active duty, but are presumed to have begun during service.
You may still be eligible even if you separated from the military more than 7 years ago. You would need a diagnosis by a healthcare provider, preferably a neurologist, who links symptoms you had during those 7 years directly to your current diagnosis. A "nexus" letter can support the claim by showing this connection.
When applying for benefits, make sure you have:
- A complete and ongoing journal of your symptoms. Include dates, duration, severity, names of medical providers and any witnesses who can attest to the limitations imposed by your MS.
- A file of all your medical records (military and non-military). You must have a copy of your DD Form 214 and documentation of all your medical information to date. This information could help support a case for future rating increases.
COVID-19 vaccines from the VA
All U.S. Veterans, Veteran spouses and caregivers are now eligible to receive free COVID-19 vaccines through the VA. Visit the VA’s COVID-19 vaccine website to learn more.
Learn more about VA disability benefits and services for Veterans with MS.
Help from the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA)
The Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) helps Veterans, including those with MS, access their hard-earned VA benefits. One in four PVA members has MS, and the PVA has a strong track record of success with even the most complex disability claims. They also assist with automobile and home adaptions and access to VA medical care.
PVA membership is open to anyone who:
- Is a citizen of the United States or its territories
- Is a Veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces whose discharge was other than dishonorable
- Has a spinal cord injury or disease, including MS
Visit the PVA website for more information on how they can help.