VA and National Multiple Sclerosis Society join forces to enhance health care services for Veterans
Intent to promote whole health and wellness goals of Veterans and families
By Marsha Tarver, PhD, MA, and Robert Baum
As part of the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) efforts to advance and improve the lives of Veterans living with multiple sclerosis (MS), the department announced its recent partnership with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
The partnership, formalized on March 6, will continue to build upon VA’s national network of MS clinical services, education and research.
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said VA is committed to working closely with Veterans and their caregivers, community health care professionals, MS advocates and Veterans service organizations to identify new and innovative ways to support this initiative.
“MS can be an overwhelming challenge for those who are fighting the disease and their loved ones who care for them,” Wilkie said. “VA recognizes and values the strength of collaborations with our external partners, which can help increase access to care and lead to a more fulfilled quality of life.”
VA and the National MS Society seek to enhance health services, education, self-efficacy and promote whole health goals of Veterans and their families, by sharing certain resources and collaborating on policy, educational and research initiatives.
“Veterans living with multiple sclerosis need our support,” said Cyndi Zagieboylo, president and CEO of the National MS Society. “This agreement is a very clear commitment from the federal government and the society that we are here for them — and will be here for them.”
According to the National MS Society, nearly 1 million people are living with MS in the United States. Approximately 20,000 Veterans with MS are cared for annually in the Veterans Health Administration. With the 2003 establishment of VA’s MS Centers of Excellence, Veterans and their families have access to a national network of regional and support programs to improve their diagnosis and treatment.
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. There are several categories of eligibility based upon a variety of factors. Some of these factors are related to time of service and priority groups.
Veterans that served in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998 are eligible for an extended period of eligibility for health care for five years post discharge. Enrollment Priority Groups range from 1-8, with 1 being the highest priority for enrollment. A Priority Group 1 Veteran has service-connected disabilities rated 50% or more. A Priority Group 8 Veteran has a gross household income above the VA national income threshold and the geographically-adjusted income threshold for their resident location, and who agrees to pay co-pays.
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 Women’s Centers available at each VA Medical Center.
Medical care for eligible Veterans with MS includes disease modifying therapies, other medications, physical and occupational therapy, and other health care services and medical equipment
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