What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
Multiple Sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system in which your immune system attacks the protective myelin sheath that covers nerve fibers. This interferes with the transmission of nerve signals between the brain, spinal cord, and the rest of the body. Veterans with MS may be entitled to service-connected disability benefits through the VA.
Signs and Symptoms of MS:
The signs and symptoms of MS can vary drastically from person to person, and can often make MS difficult to diagnose. Some of the more common signs and symptoms are:
- Vision impairment;
- Cognitive impairment;
- Muscle stiffness;
- Tingling and/or numbness;
- Urinary difficulties such as incontinence or urinary frequency;
- Bowel incontinence or constipation;
- Weakness in the arms and/or legs;
- Loss of balance;
This is not an exhaustive list. There are numerous signs and symptoms of MS that range in severity and chronicity, some of the more uncommon symptoms can include tremors, headaches, seizures and speech difficulties.
Service Connection for MS
Multiple Sclerosis can be service-connected on a presumptive basis if it manifests to a degree of 10 percent disabling or more within seven years after separation from service. This means that veterans with symptoms of MS during their military service, or within seven years after honorable discharge from the military, do not have to prove a nexus, or link, between their military service and their MS. The VA assigns this seven year presumptive period because MS can be very difficult to diagnose based on the number of different signs and symptoms. Additionally, it can take years for symptoms of MS to manifest to a noticeable degree, often delaying a formal diagnosis.
If you were diagnosed with MS after seven years following your separation from the military, you may still be service-connected for your MS. If you treated for symptoms of MS within the seven years following your discharge, you will need to get an opinion from a medical professional regarding how the symptoms for which you received treatment are related to your current diagnosis of MS.
Unlike diseases such as type II diabetes or certain cancers, MS is not on any list of presumptive conditions for military exposures. For example, MS is not known to be linked to exposure to Agent Orange or exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
How does the VA rate MS?
If you are diagnosed with MS, the minimum rating that VA will assign is 30 percent. Beyond that minimum rating, the VA will rate veterans on the presence and severity of their symptoms. No diagnosis of MS is exactly the same, therefore the VA will likely rate veterans differently.
Other Benefits for Veterans with MS
Regardless of whether or not a veteran is service-connected for MS, the VA will provide healthcare services for veterans with MS throughout their life from the date of diagnosis.
Depression is a common side effect of MS and veterans may be eligible for service connection for their depression as secondary to their service-connected MS.
Veterans with MS may be entitled to Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) if their service-connected MS impacts their ability to work.
Additionally, veterans with MS may be entitled to Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) due to their service-connected MS. If you need assistance with activities of daily living and self-care, or are permanently housebound due to service-connected MS, the VA may grant you SMC.
Contact CCK for a Free Consultation
CCK has decades of experience successfully representing disabled veterans on their VA disability claim appeals. Call us today for a free consultation. Let us fight for the disability benefits you deserve.