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Yet Another Tale of Veteran Bureaucratic Hurdles: You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

Written by veterans  |  23. March 2007

This time it's personal. On Friday March 13, 2007 Senator Patty Murray (WA) introduced a bill to help veterans with Multiple Sclerosis get the benefits to which we are entitled; sooner than later. The bill reads simply, "Section 1112(a)(4) of title 38, United States Code, is amended by striking `within seven years from' and inserting `after'" Yet, those few words can make a world of difference to many of us. Early 1975 In 1975, as I was approaching 30, the inside of my left leg and the top of my left foot went numb; something even I realize really shouldn't be. While I tended to stay away from doctors, this numbness was more than enough to have me visit them - they who had been my doctors since I was five. He looked, probed, thought for a few moments, and then asked the telling question, "Do you always wear jockey-shorts?" After I mentally picked my jaw off the floor, I responded, "Yes?" To which he replied, "I want you to switch to boxers." "Okay..." was my reply. Two Months Later No Numbness At All! And, many years later I had my first personal example of the old engineering saw, "Correlation does not mean causation!" But little did I know it at the time. 19 Years Later (1994) I learned what had actually caused the numbness was Multiple Sclerosis. And 8 Years More (2002) I learned of the VA Multiple Sclerosis 7-year rule, "...[I]n the case of any veteran who served... during a period of war... multiple sclerosis developing... within seven years from the date of separation from such service... shall be considered to have been incurred by such service..." Now here's the Rub All I had to do was provide my doctor's 1974 report. My doctor's 1974 report? Arrrgh! My doctors had long passed and any of my 1974 records were no longer to be found. The VA was (and continues to this day) to be very polite and understanding... but insistent. As of now, to obtain the benefits to which I am entitled... I needed that 1974 report. Double-Arrrgh! About Senator's Murray's Proposed Bill and MS The bill would remove the seven-year limitation for veterans trying to gain service-connected status for their Multiple Sclerosis. This legislation would ensure that a person diagnosed seven years and one day after their honorable discharge from the U.S. military will still get access to the VA treatment they need. Veterans with MS should not be penalized because their symptoms were diagnosed more than 7 years after separation. In my case while the MS did surface within the 7 year period, it was not diagnosed until 23 years later. Scientists aren't 100% certain what causes it, but there is a general consensus that MS is higher among veterans than the general population. Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic neurological disease with symptoms ranging from clumsiness to blindness to numbness; I'm wheelchair bound with only the use of partial use of my right arm and hand. The problem with the seven year limit for Multiple Sclerosis is that a person with MS may not show symptoms for years even though they have the disease; 23 years for me before my first significant episode. A Favor This bill needs your support. To learn more about Senator Murray's efforts you can find information on her website (http://murray.senate.gov/news.cfm?id=270533). What you can do is make your elected officials aware of her efforts. Ask your Senators to co-sponsor the bill, and ask your Representative to propose a similar bill in the House. To contact your Representative go to "Write Your Representative" (http://www.house.gov/writerep/), fill in your state and zip code, and follow the instructions. To contact our Senators, fill out the Web Forms for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (http://clinton.senate.gov/contact/webform.cfm) and Senator Charles E. Schumer (http://schumer.senate.gov/SchumerWebsite/contact/webform.cfm). And if you should send this to someone not in New York, to contact their Senators they should go to "Senators of the 110th Congress" (http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm), select their state, and fill in the "Web Form" for both of their Senators. A Final Word For myself and my many Veteran brothers and sisters to those of you who take the moment to get in touch with your Senators and Representatives... we thank you. --- Regards, Walt Schmidt

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