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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Veterans and Multiple Sclerosis - an MS Patient's story

Published Nov 11, 2013

At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh year…” the simple elegance of the phrasing brings one back to the time when the end of a war was marked by an Armistice.  Back to a time so naive as to name what we now know as a prequel “The war to end all wars”.  But today, call it Veteran’s Day or Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, we stop to honor those who have served their countries in time of war and in time of peace.
Unfortunately, many of the ranks of our veterans are also members of our ranks; people living with multiple sclerosis.
There have been some studies showing veterans at higher risk for MS than the general population.  Some legislation has been written to address, but MS in vets isn’t a very sexy topic… so it has always died in the process.
I am a veteran living with MS.  Though I exhibited symptoms of the disease during my service and within the few years directly after – symptoms that my MS team confirms were indeed symptoms of the disease – I was diagnosed too long after my service to avail myself of very good medical care at a VA MS Center of Excellence.
One of the components of MS appears to be an environmental factor which has yet to be identified.  It appears that service in the military – the US military at least – may expose more people to that (or, perhaps, “those”) factors.
This Veteran’s Day is different for me than those in the past; far from the shores of lakes, seas and oceans I once sailed on US Coast Guard ships, I look at my time as a serviceman and of the battle with my disease differently.  But I still remember those who have gone before us – in service and in MS.
If there is a way to make a connection between “environmental triggers” and military service, we’d all benefit from knowing.
Today, I wish everyone a moment to reflect, a moment of peace and of sorrow and a moment of hope.  But remember: Hope without a plan is just a dream.
Wishing you and your family the best of health.


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Dawn said...

I, too am a Veteran who was diagnosed after the seven year window. However, I go to my local VA Medical Center for primary and specialty care services. Most recently, an MRI, colonoscopy and eye exam. Although, we do not recieve full VA benefits, the services offered are much appreciated.

Dawn said...

The VA provides health care services to Veterans with MS from the time of diagnosis throughout their life, whether or not they have a service-connected or non-service connected status. If an individual had symptoms of MS in the military, or within seven years after honorable discharge, he or she may be eligible for service-connected disability. If this is the case, the Veteran should complete the Veterans Application for Compensation and/or Pension available online ( or at his or her local medical center. Veterans Service Organizations (VSO), such as the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and United Spinal Association are good support resources. For more information: