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Veterans with Multiple Sclerosis

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Resources for Veterans with Multiple Sclerosis

Download a comprehensive 'Veterans with Multiple Sclerosis' resource list.

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COVID-19 Vaccines

All U.S. Veterans, Veteran spouses, caregivers are now eligible to receive no-cost COVID-19 vaccines through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Visit the VA’s COVID-19 vaccine website to learn more.

Ask an MS Expert Program Series

The Ask an MS Expert program series provides an opportunity to learn more about multiple sclerosis from top MS experts. Programs focus on trending topics related to the MS community. Experts answer your questions and MS Navigators provide live resource support throughout each program.

The Ask an MS Expert program series is offered weekly in English, monthly in Spanish and quarterly for Veterans.

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Overview

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.

Living with Progressive MS- A Webinar for Veterans with MS

Optimal care for individuals living with progressive MS involves several strategies integrated into an overall treatment plan. In addition to managing the disease course, working with your healthcare team to manage symptoms, engaging in preventive care strategies, identifying and treating any co-existing health conditions, and using complementary, nontraditional treatments is important. 

Learn strategies for managing your MS in an integrated, comprehensive way and what resources are available from the VA, Paralyzed Veterans of American and the National MS Society to help you live your best life with MS.

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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.

Featured Podcasts

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.

 

VA benefits

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 for VA Disability Benefits or all benefits and services available for Veterans with Multiple Sclerosis read 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.

Additional resources

Download a comprehensive 'Veterans with Multiple Sclerosis' resource list.
Connect

Connection opportunities

  • Veterans Self Help Group- This group is for veterans and active-duty military.
  • MS World offers chat rooms led by volunteers with MS specifically for members of the military and their families.
Featured Video

A Veteran's Perspective

While serving as an officer on the bridge of the USS Bonhomme Richard in 2009, Donnie Horner was diagnosed with MS.

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