MS Focus of Paralyzed Veterans of America’s Newest Committee

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by Steve Bryson, PhD |

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Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) has formed a committee to better address the needs and interests of veterans with multiple sclerosis (MS), including help with obtaining care and disability benefits.

The nonprofit PVA is the only congressionally chartered veterans organization working to assist and represent veterans with spinal cord injury or diseases like MS and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It helps to ensure veterans receive their earned benefits, monitors care in spinal cord injury units, and funds research and education for individuals with paralysis.

For more information about how PVA serves veterans with MS, click here.

The MS Committee intends to use first-hand experiences to support legislative measures that improve the care of veterans with MS. It will also serve as a resource for all veterans with this neurodegenerative disorder.

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“PVA has long assisted veterans who need to obtain health care and disability benefits due to multiple sclerosis,” Charles Brown, national president of PVA, said in a press release. “Our National Service Officers are experts in securing disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs [VA] that are unique to veterans with MS and are adept at navigating the VA to ensure our members get the highest quality care.

“Our hope with this new MS Committee is that we will increase awareness of all the needs of veterans living with this disease and become the go-to resource for those who need assistance,” Brown added.

PVA reports that about 25% of its members are diagnosed with MS, an autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation and damage to the myelin sheath that surrounds and protects nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord.

With myelin damage, nerve communication is impaired, resulting in a wide range of symptoms that can include numbness and tingling, walking difficulties, stiffness, fatigue, pain, vision problems, and slowed thinking.

PVA also partners with organizations with expertise in MS, including the VA’s Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence and the National MS Society. For MS Awareness Week, held March 13–19, the three groups joined to host a “Ask the Expert” webinar, which aired March 15.

In the webinar, U.S. Air Force veteran Karla Clay spoke about her experiences living with MS and how the PVA improved her quality of life. Clay began experiencing symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, and numbness in her feet, in the early 1980s while on active duty. Her diagnosis came in 2001, after an MRI found signs of MS-related damage.

Upon learning she was eligible, Clay enrolled in the VA healthcare system, then later participated in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games — the largest adaptive sports event for veterans hosted every year by the VA and PVA. Karla won three golds, a silver, and a bronze medal at her first games.

“Getting involved with adaptive sports and PVA changed my life. I’ve come out of my shell and met many great people, reaped the rewards of volunteering, gotten in shape, and learned so much—especially about myself,” Clay said. “I don’t really view many things as challenges; I look at them as opportunities.”

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