Multiple Sclerosis – Delayed Onset?
If you are a veteran who has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), even decades following your discharge, you may be able to prove that this disease first manifested during service and file a Multiple Sclerosis claim. Under Section 1112 of Title 38 of the U.S. Code, a veteran is entitled to a seven-year presumptive period for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) from any period of active service that lasted more than 90 days. The VA starts this seven-year period based on the veteran’s last period of active duty that lasted for at least 90 days.
Think back to your time in service, or the short years following. Were you experiencing unexplainable tingling and numbness? Because MS affects the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord, your body’s nerves may be sending conflicting signals or not sending signals at all, causing numbness and/or tingling. Dizziness? What about weakness or fatigue? Weakness and fatigue may also come and go throughout this disease process; fatigue occurs when nerves deteriorate in the spinal column. Vision problems? Multiple Sclerosis can cause the optic nerve to become inflamed which can lead to a disruption of vision. There are many other early symptoms of MS, so be sure to talk to your doctor.
Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis
Because symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis can often mimic other disease processes, it is easy for this disease to go undiagnosed, sometimes for decades. In order to diagnose Multiple Sclerosis, a doctor – usually a neurologist – will be required to perform a number of different tests which may include a neurological exam, eye exam, MRI, or spinal tap. These tests can assess damage to the central nervous system and can be used to rule out other possible conditions. The severity and symptoms of this disease may look different in every individual, and symptoms can surface for a few weeks and then disappear for periods of time. That is what makes diagnosing this condition so difficult. Relapses of MS can get worse as time goes on and become more unpredictable; early detection of this disease may help prevent it from progressing so quickly.
Proving Your Multiple Sclerosis Claim
Because Multiple Sclerosis mimics other diseases and a veteran may not receive a proper diagnosis until years down the road, obtaining service-connection can be difficult, but it is not impossible.
This first step to proving your multiple sclerosis claim will be identifying service medical records that mark those early symptoms of MS. These symptoms can include dizziness, numbness and tingling, weakness, fatigue, vision problems, and many others. You need to show that your MS first manifested during service or the seven-year presumptive period. If you did not attend sick call for these conditions, or if your symptoms manifested following service, send the VA relevant medical records from the VA or the private sector that document complaints of these symptoms. It’ll also be beneficial to provide lay statements describing a timeline of symptoms you had been experiencing during or after service when the symptoms developed, and detailed information on how those symptoms were affecting your functioning. Another helpful option for your multiple sclerosis claim is to provide buddy statements from witnesses that can attest to the fact that you had been complaining of these symptoms during service or within seven years following active duty service (lasting at least 90 days). Buddies can include family members, employers, or someone you served with. Even if you did not receive a diagnosis of MS within the seven-year presumptive period you have a basis for a multiple sclerosis claim as long as you were experiencing any of the early onset symptoms.