Working for Veterans

On March 6, 2019, the National MS Society entered into a four-year Memorandum of Agreement with the Veterans Administration. This partnership will provide veterans living with MS comprehensive and coordinated care and services.

Society president and CEO Cyndi Zagieboylo, a proud daughter of a veteran, reflects on what this means:

My father was a veteran. He joined the Air Force at 17 years old, at the tail end of World War II.

Like so many during that time, he didn’t talk much about his experience, but I have many special memories of him honoring veterans and those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice.

I remember when I was a child, my dad sold poppies, the flower of remembrance, around Veterans Day. He served on a committee to organize our town’s Memorial Day parade. As a small child, I marched with him and attended the ceremonies and later my children marched with their grandpa.  Over time, we all learned the importance of this remembrance for him and for our small town.
My dad had so much pride in the fact he served his country and he never forgot the friends he lost.

Our veterans living with multiple sclerosis need our support—and our Memorandum of Agreement with the Veterans Administration is a very clear commitment from the federal government and the National MS Society that we are here for them—and will be here for them.

Right now, there are about 70,000 US veterans living with multiple sclerosis.

We don’t know why so many have this disease, but we believe for some of these veterans, their MS is related to their combat service.

In multiple sclerosis, the body’s own immune system targets the central nervous system and causes damage to important cells and tissues. This damage slows or stops nerve transmission. Right now, the progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person can’t be predicted.
We have medications that can slow the progression of the disease, but so far, no cure.

Both the federal government, through the Department of Defense, and the National Institutes of Health, and the Society are actively funding promising MS research. As we aggressively seek a cure, we want to ensure everyone with this disease can live their best lives today, including our veterans.

That’s why the Society was a strong advocate for establishing the VA MS Centers of Excellence and we are proud to have been involved with the leadership of the centers since their inception.

For years, we have worked collaboratively with the VA on programs for both professionals and veterans. There is a special page on the Society's website to help connect veterans to both Society programs and the MS Centers of Excellence clinical sites.

The VA estimates it cares for about 20,000 veterans living with MS. We know there are many more who haven’t yet connected with the Society or the VA and we know we must find ways to reach them, engage them and help them live their best lives.

If you know a veteran living with MS ask him or her if they are connected to the Society, and if not, point them in our direction. We have many resources and programs that can help, from wellness workshops to self-help groups. Most importantly, we can make sure every veteran is connected to the MS specialists at the VA who can help them navigate the medical challenges of this disease.

During the signing ceremony in Washington, D.C., we were fortunate to hear from Nick Mangus, a decorated Army veteran living with MS. Nick’s MS has progressed where he now uses a powered wheelchair to get around. It was very moving to hear him speak of his love of his family, his country and about how proud he was to have served in the military. He also spoke about the exceptional care he’s received from the VA and the important Society-run programs that have helped him and his wife Margee deal with his disease.
Professionally, I am so proud of the work we do with the VA and look forward to deepening this relationship to provide the best care, information and resources to our veterans living with MS.
Personally, this also gives me the chance to continue the good work my dad first instilled in me years ago.
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Cyndi Zagieboylo

Cyndi Zagieboylo began her National MS Society career in 1985 and has held many responsibilities and positions at the Society. Cyndi has worked with every CEO of the organization, including the National MS Society founder, Sylvia Lawry, and has made achieving the Society’s vision of a world free of MS her life’s work.