VA Benefits for Multiple Sclerosis
Veterans may be eligible for a broad range of programs and services provided by the VA. These programs are based upon enrollment eligibility and discharge status from active military service. VA determines your eligibility for VA’s comprehensive medical benefits package once you enroll through the online application process or submit VA’s Application for Health Benefits (10-10EZ) at a local VA medical facility. If you are already enrolled in VA health care, you can update your information online.
Women Veterans are eligible for the same VA benefits as male Veterans. Their eligibility is based upon the same Enrollment Priority Group process mentioned above. Once eligibility is determined, women Veterans can receive their medical care from specialized Woman Centers available at VA medical facilities.
Service-Connected Benefits for MS
Service-connected (SC) status refers to Veterans who are disabled by an injury or disease that was incurred or aggravated during active military service. MS is a presumptive condition and benefits are based on the presumption that the disability is service-connected (SC). Veterans with symptoms of MS in the military or within seven years after honorable discharge may be eligible for SC disability.
Non-Service-Connected Benefits for MS
Non-service-connected (nonSC) status refers to Veterans who have a disability or health issue that is not related to their military service. Veterans diagnosed with MS after the presumptive period of seven years could be eligible for VA benefits under the non-service-connected status.
Medical care for eligible Veterans with MS includes disease modifying therapies, symptomatic medications, physical and occupational therapy, and other health care services and medical equipment. Some VA programs that may be of particular interest to Veterans with MS are outlined below.
Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service Program
The Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service (PSAS) program is an integrated delivery system designed to provide eligible Veterans medically prescribed devices such as hearing aids, eyeglasses, speech and communication devices, home dialysis supplies, orthopedic braces/supports/footwear, wheelchairs, home respiratory aids, hospital beds, and other daily-living aids. The basic eligibility for prosthetic items is enrollment in the VA system and proper medical justification. Service connection does not have a role in eligibility except for certain programs.
The Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) program provides medically necessary improvements and structural alterations to Veterans’ primary residence for specific purposes.
Veterans may be able to get a Disability Housing Grant through the Specially Adaptive Housing (SAH), Special Housing Adaptations (SHA), or Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA) programs if they are using the grant money to buy, build, or change their or a family members permanent home and they meet certain requirements. Veterans must be SC to receive the SAH and SHA grants.
The Automobile Adaptive Equipment (AAE) program helps physically challenged persons to enter, exit, and/or operate a motor vehicle or other conveyance. This may include necessary equipment such as platform wheelchair lifts, UVLs (under vehicle lifts), power door openers, lowered floors/raised roofs, raised doors, hand controls, left foot gas pedals, reduced effort and zero effort steering and braking, and digital driving systems. This program is for Veterans who have SC.
While Veterans with a nonSC disability are not eligible for the AAE program, they may still be eligible for a vehicle modification.
Veterans may be eligible for a one-time payment of not more than $21,488 (2020) toward the purchase of an automobile or other conveyance if they have certain SC disabilities. The grant is paid directly to the seller of the automobile and Veterans may only receive the automobile grant once in their lifetime.
SC Veterans may receive an annual monetary allowance for clothing that has been damaged by prosthetic or orthopedic appliances.
The VA supports guide or service dogs prescribed for a disabled Veteran under 38 CFR 17.148 for the purpose of the Veteran being diagnosed as having a visual, hearing, or substantial mobility impairment.
Orthotic and Prosthetic Services
PSAS has more than 70 locations for the custom fabrication and fitting of the latest state-of-the-art orthotics and prosthetic (O&P) componentry. VA also has over 600 local contracts with accredited O&P providers to ensure access to care is near the Veteran's home.
Aid and Attendance
VA Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits provide monthly payments added to the amount of a monthly VA pension for qualified Veterans and survivors.
Skilled Home Health Care
Skilled Home Health provides health care services to Veterans if they live far away from a VA medical facility. The care is delivered by a community-based home health agency that has a contract with the VA. The program is for Veterans who need skilled services such as skilled nursing, case management, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, wound care, or IV antibiotics.
Home Health Aide Care
A Homemaker or Home Health Aide is a trained person who can come to a Veteran's home and help the Veteran take care of themselves and their daily activities. Homemakers and Home Health Aides are not nurses, but they are supervised by a registered nurse who will help assess the Veteran's daily living needs. This program is for Veterans who need skilled services, case management, and help with activities of daily living. Examples include help with bathing, dressing, or fixing meals. This program is also for Veterans who are isolated, or their caregiver is experiencing burden.
Respite care is a program that pays for care for a short time when family caregivers need a break, need to run errands, or need to go out of town for a few days. Respite Care can be helpful to Veterans of all ages, and their caregiver. The program is for Veterans who need help with activities of daily living. There are two types of respite:
- Home Respite Care is a service that pays for a person to come to a Veteran's home or for a Veteran to go to an adult day care program while their family caregiver takes a break or runs errands. Home respite is available for 6 hours at a time.
- Nursing Home Respite Care is a service that pays for a person to go to a nursing home, for up to 30 days each calendar year, while the family goes out of town for a few days without worrying about leaving the Veteran alone at home.
In summary, the VA offers a variety of medical and support services and programs for people with MS. It is important to contact your local VA medical facility social work department and review your eligibility for the benefits discussed. The VA provides Patient Advocates to help with this process and you can always contact one of the Veterans Service Organizations like Paralyzed Veterans of America, United Spinal, and Disabled American Veterans for additional support. The VA is committed to work with Veterans and their families toward a better quality of life.