Currently there are no accurate estimates of the prevalence or incidence of MS for the entire Veteran population partly because only about 40% of Veterans with MS, approximately 20,000, receive their care within the VA Health Care System (VHA). Based on a recently published report, a larger national estimate of MS prevalence
determined that the prevalence of MS within VHA users increased from a rate of 141 per 100,000 Veterans in 1999 to a rate of 262 per 100,000 Veterans in 2014.
A diagnosis of MS is based on medical history and neurological exam. Symptoms often occur years before a diagnosis is made. Neurologic symptoms occurring within 7 years of discharge, regardless of date of diagnosis, can be used to support service-connection for MS. Service-connection is given for disabilities that were not diagnosed while on active duty, but “presumed” to have begun during service. MS has a longer presumptive period of 7 years and awarded a 30% rating.
There is no evidence suggesting Gulf War Veterans are at increased risk for MS or demyelinating diseases in general.
There is also no demonstrated connection between Agent Orange and MS. Due to a variety of disorders that are connected to Agent Orange, the VA has created a website
that addresses questions, and has a research program dedicated to studying this exposure and its relationship to health.
U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs - MS Centers of Excellence
The Department of Veterans Affairs established the VA MS Centers of Excellence (MSCoE)
in 2003. The MSCoE utilize a network of approximately 70 regional programs to:
- improve care for veterans with MS
- enhance MS education for patients, caregivers and providers
- promote research into the causes and treatments for MS
In 2019 the National MS Society signed a memorandum of agreement with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, MS Centers of Excellence, to improve care and expand resources for veterans living with multiple sclerosis and their families.
To find the nearest VA clinics and MS Centers of Excellence, visit their website or reach out via email at MSCentersofExcellence@va.gov.
Learn more about VA benefits and services for Veterans with MS.
MS Center of Excellence - The Elite Warrior Project podcast: A podcast designed for veterans and active duty service members diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. The podcast is hosted by Ashley Lee and featured Suzanne Bachman, MS Navigator on the March 29, 2021 episode.
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. You may still be eligible if you separated from the military more than 7 years ago if you have a diagnosis by a healthcare provider, preferably a neurologist, who links the symptoms you had during those 7 years directly to your current diagnosis. Some veterans have had success by using a "nexus" letter
to support their claim.
To find out if you are eligible, read the VA eligibility criteria
or call the VA benefits line at 800-827-1000.
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.
- 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.
a comprehensive 'Veterans with Multiple Sclerosis' resource list.