Summary of VA Services for Service-Connected Veterans with Multiple Sclerosis
Tara Stablein, MSW, LICSW
The VA provides a number of services for Veterans who qualify for service-connected compensation (SC). Even for those SC Veterans with MS who currently receive benefits under programs such as Medicare and Tricare, there are other services available to you that may prove useful in maintaining your independence and quality of life. In addition to health care and medications, you may be eligible for assistance in purchasing a wheelchair accessible vehicle, home modifications, in-home assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), Independent Living Services, and respite care. Typically, insurers like Tricare do not assist with the cost of these services which are often essential to supporting a person with MS and their family/caregivers.
There are a number of possible benefits in the area of home modifications. The VA offers a Home Improvement Structural Alterations (HISA) grant of up to $1,200 for non-SC Veterans and up to $4,100 for SC Veterans. Applications for a HISA grant are available through the Prosthetics Department at your local VA http://www.prosthetics.va.gov/index.asp. The VA can also approve a grant for the actual cost, up to a maximum of $12,756 for adaptations to a Veteran's residence that are determined by VA to be reasonably necessary. This grant may also be used to help Veterans acquire a residence that already has adaptations for the Veteran's disability. For this $12,756 award, Veterans must be entitled to compensation for permanent and total service-connected disability due to (a) blindness in both eyes with 5/200 visual or less or (b) anatomical loss of use of both hands. Additionally, many SC Veterans with MS may qualify for the Specially Adapted Housing grant (SAH) which provides a grant of up to $63,780 for remodeling, purchasing, or building a home to meet their needs. For more information on the SAH, including an application form (VA Form 26-4555), go to http://www.homeloans.va.gov/sah.htm
In addition to making accommodation to their home, many persons with MS also require accommodations to their vehicle. The following link should take you to an FAQ on the VA web that describes the eligibility requirements and steps for applying for assistance in obtaining an accessible vehicle: http://www.prosthetics.va.gov/AutomobileAdaptiveEquipment.asp
Many VA's also have a program called Homemaker Home Health Aide (HHHA). This program contracts with local home health agencies to provide an aide who will assist a Veteran in their home with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as dressing and bathing. This program is typically limited to SC Veterans who are (a) 60% SC with unemployability, (b) 70% or more SC, or (c) SC for the condition for which they need assistance.
Respite care can also occur (a) on an inpatient basis, either in a VA hospital, or in the community in a skilled nursing facility, or (b) on an outpatient basis, either in-home services provided by a home health aide, or through attendance at an adult day health center in the community. Service connected Veterans do not have any co-pays for respite care. Non-SC Veterans may have a co-pay after 21 days of respite care.
Skilled nursing care is also available. Veterans who are (a) 60% SC with unemployability, (b) 70% or more SC, or (c) SC for the condition for which they need skilled nursing care are eligible for VA-paid skilled nursing care in a community nursing facility or VA long-term care facility.
This is a summary of current services the VA can provide to SC Veterans with MS. For more information or assistance in applying, contact the Social Work Department at your local VA or a Veterans service organization in your area. For more information, use the following links:
Date posted: August 2004