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Four Things to Know About Social Security Disability and Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
By Thomas J. Giordano, Jr.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disease caused by disruptions between the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Like most neurological illnesses, no one knows what causes MS, and it impacts everyone differently. While MS is not fatal like amyotrophic laterals sclerosis (ALS), it is a very unpredictable and frequently disabling condition that can impede motor function, memory, and more.

Despite the mystery shrouding MS, there are many treatments that can help to reduce symptoms and improve your overall quality of life. If you have been diagnosed with MS, be sure to meet with a specialist regularly and discuss all of the options available to you.

Because of the erratic nature of MS symptoms, it can be very difficult to maintain a full-time job. Your diagnosis may qualify you for Social Security disability benefits if you are unable to work, but there are some things you should know before applying:

1. Understand the Social Security Administration’s disability evaluation guidelines

Many people who have been diagnosed with MS have no physically obvious symptoms, or may be asymptomatic altogether. If your symptoms have grown problematic enough that they are impeding your ability to work full-time, you should consider applying for Social Security disability benefits. It’s important to understand the criteria that the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses when evaluating an applicant for benefits approval. The SSA listing for MS can be viewed here.  But it’s essential to remember that even if you do not meet the SSA listing guidelines for MS, you are still eligible for benefits if you can show that your MS precludes you from working eight hours a day, five days per week on a consistent basis.

2. Track your MS symptoms and episodes

The SSA typically requires that a disabling condition be expected to last for at least twelve months, but with MS, they recognize that the condition is not always constant. Not only does MS affect everyone differently, but symptoms can fluctuate from day-to-day, and recede or accelerate in severity over time. This is especially common in relapsing-remitting MS, the most common diagnosis. There are four primary types of MS, and each tends to show different patterns of symptoms over time:

  • Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS)
  • Secondary-Progressive MS (SPMS)
  • Primary-Progressive MS (PPMS)
  • Progressive-Relapsing MS (PRMS)

Instead of seeing whether your episode lasts twelve months, the SSA will look at how often you have an episode, and how long each episode tends to last, in addition to any permanent disabling symptoms to make a decision about your status. You can help your case by keeping a careful account of your symptoms on a daily basis over a period of time.

3. Documentation is key to winning your Social Security Disability case

Medical and personal documentation of your condition provide the strongest defense of your case. As with any disability, the SSA requires a doctor’s diagnosis, but supporting documentation of treatments you receive for your symptoms can go a long way towards proving that you are eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. There are two ways that MS can be found disabling: the first is by meeting the SSA listing guidelines, and the second is by proving that your symptoms from MS are such that you cannot sustain competitive employment in any job.

In addition to medical documentation, you can help your disability case by keeping a personal record of your symptoms and any side effects you’ve experienced from drugs you are taking to treat your MS. If your condition improves with drug treatment, the side effects can still be used as evidence for your disability case.

4. You are not alone

The multiple sclerosis Foundation estimates that over 400,000 people in the United States and about 2.5 million people globally have MS. Whether you or a loved one has been diagnosed with MS, resources are available in the form of support groups both on and offline. You can find local meetings and other resources to help improve your quality of life at the National MS Society website.

If you or someone you know have been diagnosed with MS and are unable to work, please get in touch with us today for a free evaluation of benefits by filling out the short contact form below.


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