Have you or someone you love been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis following active duty service in the military?
Multiple Sclerosis is a debilitating condition that can make you eligible for a variety of benefits as well as disability compensation from the VA.
Are you wondering whether your diagnosis is related to your service and how to apply for benefits? Keep reading to learn more about MS VA benefits and what to do if you have been diagnosed after serving.
In this article about Veterans and benefits for MS:
- What Is Multiple Sclerosis?
- Determining Eligibility for VA Benefits
- Is Your Multiple Sclerosis Service-Connected?
- Multiple Sclerosis and VA Ratings
- What If My Multiple Sclerosis Is Not Service Connected?
- Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence
- How Do I Find out What Benefits I Am Eligible For?
- Are You Looking to Increase Your Multiple Sclerosis Disability Benefits?
What Is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis, commonly known as MS, is a disease of the central nervous system. When you have multiple sclerosis, your immune system attacks your own central nervous system. It goes after the myelin sheath that covers your nerve fibers.
When this happens, you will experience problems sending nerve signals from your brain to the rest of your body. Multiple sclerosis can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms of the disease can vary so much from person to person. The symptoms experienced by those with the condition can also vary in how long they last and how severe they are.
Some of the most common signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis include:
- Vision impairment
- Cognitive impairment
- Loss of balance
- Weakness in the extremities
- Bowel incontinence or constipation
- Urinary problems include urinary frequency and incontinence
- Muscle stiffness
Not every patient will experience all of these symptoms and some will even experience other problems. Less common symptoms can include trouble with speech, tremors, seizures, and headaches.
Determining Eligibility for VA Benefits
There are certain criteria that every veteran must meet in order to be eligible to receive benefits from the VA. First, you must have been separated or discharged from active duty by honorable conditions. If you were dishonorably discharged, you won’t be eligible. In some cases, this can be contested and changed. If you think you have a chance to contest yours, call us.
Second, you must be diagnosed with a disability. This is best done by a doctor that is not only familiar with disabilities, but one that is familiar with service-connected disabilities that the VA rates. That’s why we have doctors on staff to help you file the strongest claim possible.
Finally, in order for your disability to be considered service-connected, it must have been caused by, happened during, or made worse by your active duty service.
The VA will determine your eligibility for their comprehensive medical benefits package after you submit your application. You can visit this website to start the application process.
You can also submit the 10-10EZ form, the VA’s Application for Health Benefits at a local VA medical facility or by calling the VA at 877-222-VETS(8387). If you are already enrolled in VA healthcare, you can update your information using their website.
If you are a woman, you are eligible for the same benefits as male veterans. The only difference is that you can receive medical care at specialized women’s centers within VA medical centers.
Is Your Multiple Sclerosis Service-Connected?
When it comes to determining whether you will be eligible for multiple sclerosis disability benefits, you need to determine whether your diagnosis was connected to your service.
If you were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis that is at least 10% disabling within seven years of your separation from service, the VA will automatically consider your diagnosis service-connected.
So, if you experienced symptoms of your disease during your military service or within seven years after you were honorably discharged, you don’t have to prove a link between your diagnosis and your military service. You won’t need a nexus statement.
Our VA disability lawyers talk about when you need a Nexus Letter for your VA disability application.
This seven-year period exists because of how difficult it can be to diagnose multiple sclerosis given the wide variety of signs and symptoms. It’s also important to note that multiple sclerosis can take years to manifest. Many patients experience signs and symptoms for years before they become noticeable enough to lead to a formal diagnosis.
It’s important to apply for VA compensation as soon as you have a diagnosis.
If more than seven years have passed after your separation from the military and before your diagnosis, it’s still possible that your condition could be considered service-connected.
For example, if you were treated for the signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis but didn’t yet have a formal diagnosis, you may be able to make a case. You will need a medical professional to explain how the symptoms you were treating are related to your diagnosis. They must provide a nexus and link your condition to an event or exposure that happened during your service.
Even if your diagnosis isn’t considered related to your service, the VA will provide healthcare services for the rest of your life.
Multiple Sclerosis and VA Ratings
When it comes to rating multiple sclerosis, the minimum rating assigned is 30 percent. Beyond this, veterans will be rated based on their symptoms.
Because multiple sclerosis manifests so differently in each patient, veterans will be rated on their individual cases. Multiple sclerosis is not considered a presumptive condition for military exposure.
What If My Multiple Sclerosis Is Not Service Connected?
If your diagnosis of multiple sclerosis can’t be linked to your service in the military, you can still claim benefits through the VA. The VA provides benefits to every veteran that is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
If you are still within the seven-year presumptive period, you should still apply for disability compensation. If seven years have passed and your doctor can link your symptoms to that period, you should file a claim.
Even if your benefits are classified as non-service connected, you will still be eligible for a wide array of treatments including physical and occupational therapy, disease-modifying treatments, and other medical equipment and healthcare services.
Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence
The VA has established Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence to help meet the needs of veterans with the condition. At these centers, veterans are offered specially targeted benefits, treatments, and care.
Even if you don’t receive disability compensation, you are eligible for a number of other benefits and services. Now, let’s take a look at some of the services and benefits available to veterans with multiple sclerosis.
Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service for Vets
If you are a veteran with multiple sclerosis, you are eligible for a number of services under the Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service (PSAS) program. This program is an integrated delivery system that is designed to provide prescribed medical devices to veterans. These include:
- Home dialysis supplies
- Hearing aids
- Hospital beds
- Orthopedic braces/supports/footwear
- Speech and communication devices
- Home respiratory aids
- Other daily living aids
In most cases, enrollment in the VA system and medical necessity are all that is needed to qualify. Service connection does not affect eligibility in most cases.
Housing Help for Veterans with MS
The Home Improvements and Structural Alterations program (HISA) helps veterans by providing funding for medically necessary alterations and improvements to their primary residence.
If your disability is service-connected, you may be eligible for up to $6,800 dollars worth of improvements and structural alterations. If your disability is not service-connected, you are eligible for up to $2,000.
Veterans can use the Specially Adaptive Housing (SAH) grant program to make their home wheelchair accessible. The maximum benefit for this program is $77,307.
There is a similar grant called the Special Housing Adaptations (SHA) grant that focuses on the specific losses of hand mobility and sight. This grant has a $15,462 maximum benefit.
Finally, the Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA) grant can be used to make a family member’s home adaptable.
Automobile Adaptations for Disabled Vets
You may be eligible for the Automobile Adaptive Equipment (AAE) program that you can use to make your vehicle adaptable. This will allow you to enter/exit and operate your motor vehicle.
If your disability is not service-connected, you won’t be eligible for the AAE program but you will still be eligible for vehicle modification.
There is another grant that veterans with a service-connected disability may be eligible for once in their lifetime. This grant offers a one-time payment of up to $20,235.20. The payment will be made out to the seller of an automobile that can help a veteran with their service-related disability.
The VA also offers veterans assistance with getting back on the road and maintaining their independence through programs that offer driving assessments and training.
Clothing Allowances for Disabled Veterans
If your disability is service-connected, you may be eligible for an annual monetary allowance to spend on clothing if your clothing has been damaged by your orthopedic or prosthetic appliances. The maximum benefit allowance is $779.
Aid and Attendance
If you are eligible for a VA pension and are housebound or require the aid and attendance of another person, you might be eligible for additional monetary compensation.
If you are taking care of a loved one who is a veteran with Multiple Sclerosis, you will be interested to hear about this benefit. The VA realizes the importance of caregivers and family members of veterans with disabilities. As a result, they offer the benefit of temporary relief for unpaid caregivers.
If a veteran requires a caregiver, they may be eligible for up to 30 days of respite care per year. During this time, the veteran will receive care in their home or at a VA facility and the caregiver will get a break. This can be an excellent chance to unwind and refresh as caring for a disabled family member can take a toll on your own health.
One of our certified VA disability attorneys talks about SMC – Special Monthly Compensation for veterans.
A veteran will typically only pay $8 for a 30 day supply of their prescriptions. In some cases, depending on your eligibility status, your copay may be waived or slightly higher.
Mental Health Services
The VA offers a variety of mental health services to provide support and meet many different mental health needs. Multiple sclerosis can be a difficult diagnosis that comes with additional mental health concerns.
Through the VA, you can receive support through services like counseling, medications, and other mental health-focused therapies. You can screen yourself for mental health issues including PTSD, depression, alcohol and drug use and dependence.
This self-guided tool is anonymous and you will be provided with information on how to find support services to address your needs.
How Do I Find out What Benefits I Am Eligible For?
The VA has a wide variety of programs offering both medical and support services for veterans with multiple sclerosis. The tricky part can be figuring out which programs you are eligible for, especially if you are dealing with the hardship of multiple sclerosis symptoms.
If you are a disabled veteran or a caregiver to a disabled veteran, you need an attorney who is experienced with disability benefits on your side. An experienced attorney can help guide you through the processes of applying for disability.
While the VA is committed to ensuring veterans get the benefits they deserve, it’s important to make sure you don’t get lost in the system. You will need to contact the social work department at your local VA medical center to review your benefits and eligibility.
Are You Looking to Increase Your Multiple Sclerosis Disability Benefits?
Whether you are applying for multiple sclerosis disability benefits for the first time, you’ve been denied the benefits you deserve, or you are looking to increase your rating, we are here for you.
We are a team of attorneys dedicated to serving our nation’s veterans. We can help you begin the application process, start the appeals process, and even file for individual employability benefits. We have been fighting for our disabled veterans for over 30 years.
Don’t wait any longer for your benefits. Contact us today for a free consultation.