Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is one of the most common diseases of the central nervous system in young adults. So when one considers that an estimated 400,000 Americans live with MS, it should surprise no one that the military veteran population sees a great number of cases as well. While many of such veterans are fortunate enough to take advantage of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits soon after they are diagnosed, I still encounter too many eligible veterans with MS who have no idea that these benefits even exist. Before I discuss what those benefits are, let us first establish who is entitled to them.

Presumptive service connection is granted to a veteran who suffers from certain chronic diseases if he or she can produce medical evidence of treatment within a presumptive period. A veteran who has served on active duty for at least 24 months and showed symptoms of MS either while in service or within 7 years after leaving service is likely to be entitled to service-connected, i.e. monetary and healthcare, benefits for the condition and its residuals. Why do I say likely? Because a statement from a physician is necessary to claim that a symptom that occurred before a definitive diagnosis was made was indeed an early manifestation of MS. In that instance, the veteran must support his or her claim with medical evidence that describes symptoms (abnormal sensations, weakness, vision changes, clumsiness, sudden loss of bladder control, chronic fatigue, etc.) that can retrospectively be deemed by a physician as more likely than not a precursor of MS. Consequently, the viability of the claim based on presumption is only as strong as the veteran’s ability to support it with medical evidence.

If your claim is eventually granted, service connection for MS begins at a minimum of 30 percent disability. From there, your percentage rating is increased based on the disabling residuals of the disease. If your condition has rendered you with significant loss of use of your arms or legs, bowel and bladder function, eyesight, or erectile function (for males), there is another tier of special benefits, such as the automobile and specially adapted housing grants, to which you may be entitled.

So what should you do if this applies to you? First, the VA must receive written notice of your intent to file a formal claim for presumptive service connection for MS. You can do this on your own, or you can contact the San Diego PVA Service Office to initiate a claim with the help of a service officer. As you begin this pursuit, you will want to consolidate any medical records from sources where you received treatment, including service medical records, as well as your DD-214, or service discharge, and notarized statements from your spouse or family about the extent of your condition. You will have a year from the date you initiate your claim to submit any supporting evidence; however, your claim will be adjudicated much faster if you do not wait.

By virtue of your service, it is the VA’s burden to ensure that you receive the best in healthcare and entitlements. It is your burden to proactively enhance your quality of life while surviving MS. Call VA today to get started.