The number of U.S. military veterans living with multiple sclerosis (MS) is difficult to accurately assess. However, a 2011 study found that an estimated 16,000 veterans with MS were receiving health care services from the Veterans Health Administration every year.
If you are a veteran with MS, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can provide you health care services, starting from the time of diagnosis and through the rest of your life. Additionally, the VA offers other resources and benefits beyond health care, and you may qualify for VA disability benefits if your MS is determined to be connected to your military service.
There are many health care benefits and resources available to veterans with MS. VA benefits programs are based upon enrollment eligibility and discharge status from active military duty.
You may be considered eligible for VA benefits if you served in the active military, air, or naval service and did not receive a dishonorable discharge.
You may qualify if you enlisted in military, air, or naval service after Sept. 7, 1980, or if you entered active duty after Oct. 16, 1981. You also must have served 24 continuous months or the full period for which you were called to active duty
You may also qualify if any of the following conditions are true:
If you are seeking benefits, you may be put in a higher-priority group if you meet at least one of the following qualifications:
There are several other qualifications, such as receiving a Purple Heart or Medal of Honor or serving in specific wars.
To apply for VA health care benefits, you may fill out the application for VA health care benefits at the VA’s website. You may also choose to print and fill out an application and take it to your nearest VA medical facility.
VA health care benefits cover a range of services and medical treatments to treat and slow the progression of MS. They cover:
The VA also offers a Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service Program that provides veterans with devices deemed medically necessary, including:
The VA offers several types of extended care for veterans and veterans with MS. One service is Skilled Home Health Care, aimed at veterans who need short-term care as they transition from a hospital stay or nursing home back to their home. Care is delivered by a contracted community-care home-health agency. Services include skilled nursing care, as well as physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
Home Health Aide Care is for veterans who need assistance with daily activities, such as bathing and getting dressed. Home health aides are not nurses, but these services can be used in combination with other home- and community-based health care services.
Respite Care offers care when a usual caregiver needs a break. Veterans receive respite care to help with their activities of daily living in their homes. There is also Nursing Home Respite Care, which will assist in temporarily moving a veteran to a nursing home for up to 30 days if their caregiver or family is going to be unavailable or out of town.
The range of VA health care benefits available to veterans with MS is expansive. You may review your benefits online. You can also contact your local VA department to discuss your eligibility and benefits. The VA offers patient advocates and other resources to help with the process of getting medical benefits.
If you have MS and the symptoms are determined to be connected to your service, you may qualify for service-connected (SC) status. This status will make you eligible for additional benefits to help with expenses, treatments, and everyday challenges of living with MS.
Some of these services include:
If you had symptoms of MS while serving in the military, or within seven years after discharge, then you may be eligible for SC disability status. SC status is given to veterans with disabilities, like MS, that were not diagnosed during active service, but for which symptoms of the disease may have been present.
If you’ve been inactive or separated from the military for more than seven years, you may still qualify for service-connected status. To be eligible, your health care provider must determine that you had symptoms during your active service or within seven years after completing your service. Your health care provider may need to provide a nexus letter to illustrate your eligibility.
You can find additional information about eligibility for service-connected status at the VA Benefits for Multiple Sclerosis webpage or by calling the VA benefits line at 800-827-1000.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society recommends that you prepare the following when applying for service-connected status:
Many available resources can provide support and assistance to veterans. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society recommends the following resources:
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