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Obtaining disability benefits for Multiple Sclerosis

If you have an advanced case of MS you have a good chance of qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.


Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Multiple Sclerosis?

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society estimates that approximately one million people are living with Multiple Sclerosis in the United States. Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is a long lasting and potentially disabling disease of the central nervous system that affects the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves.

MS disability

If you have an advanced case of MS you have a good chance of qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits. The SSA will want to see medical evidence.

MS attacks the protective covering of nerve fibers called myelin causing communication problems between the brain and other parts of the body.

Myelin is like the insulation coating electric wires. When myelin is damaged, nerve fibers become exposed, and the messages that travel along the nerves are slowed or blocked.

Symptoms of MS vary from person to person in severity and type, but include:

  •    Numbness, weakness, tingling or burning in limbs
  •   Blurred vision, double vision, or total vision loss
  •   Tremors or seizures
  •   Muscle weakness and muscle spasms
  •   Fatigue
  •   Dizziness and/or loss of balance
  •   Hearing impairment
  •   Speech problems
  •   Reduced sense of taste and small
  •   Facial pain
  •   Difficulty swallowing
  •   Short-term memory problems
  •   Incontinence, constipation
  •   Depression and mood swings

There are four types of Multiple Sclerosis:

  1.   Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS).
  2. This type of MS has clear periods of disease activity known as relapses with worsening symptoms followed by periods when the disease doesn’t progress referred to as remission. During remission, symptoms improve or disappear. 85% of people with MS are diagnosed initially as RRMS.

  3.   Secondary progressive MS (SPMS).
  4. This stage of MS follows RRMS. An individual’s disability gradually increases with or without relapses and experiences some periods of stability. 50% of people with MS transition to SPMS within 10 years of their initial diagnosis, while 90% transition in 25 years.

  5.   Primary progressive MS (PPMS).
  6. This type of MS is a steady progression of the disease with no relapses or remission.

  7.   Progressive-relapsing MS (PRMS).
  8. This type of MS presents escalating symptoms with intermittent remission.

Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!

A high percentage of Multiple Sclerosis cases do not progress and some individuals remain in RRMS for 30 years.

Eight percent of patients have an aggressive form of the disease termed HARRMS or highly active relapsing remitting Multiple Sclerosis characterized by frequent relapses with incomplete recovery and rapid accrual of disability after disease onset. Multiple Sclerosis affects people of all ages, but most frequently appears between the ages of 20 and 40 and affects more women than men. It should be noted that most people with MS live an average of only seven years less that the general population.

There is no known cause, but risk factors include:

  •    Family history of MS
  •   Infection, such as Epstein Barr, the virus that causes mononucleosis
  •   Low levels of vitamin D and low exposure to sun
  •   Certain diseases such as thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes or IBS
  •   Smoking

There is currently no cure for MS and no way to prevent the disease.

Medication along with physical therapy and speech therapy are the main treatments employed to reduce the frequency of relapses and slow the progress of the disease. Some patients have also found relief from alternative therapies such as yoga, exercise, magnet therapy, massage and acupuncture.

The Social Security Administration recognizes Multiple Sclerosis as an impairment in its Blue Book under 11.0 Neurological.

11.09 Multiple sclerosis, characterized by A or B:

  1.   Disorganization of motor function in two extremities (see 11.00D1), resulting in an extreme limitation (see 11.00D2) in the ability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use the upper extremities.
  2. OR
  3.   Marked limitation (see 11.00G2) in physical functioning (see 11.00G3a), and in one of the following:
    1.    Understanding, remembering, or applying information (see 11.00G3b(i)); or
    2.   Interacting with others (see 11.00G3b(ii)); or
    3.   Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace (see 11.00G3b(iii)); or
    4.   Adapting or managing oneself (see 11.00G3b(iv)).

If you have an advanced case of MS, you have a good chance of qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits. Social Security will want to see a variety of medical evidence:

  •   A diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis
  •   Results of tests used to diagnose MS, such as MRIs and lumbar punctures
  •    Records detailing how MS affects you; i.e. dizziness, balance problems

If you do not meet the criteria for Multiple Sclerosis as set out in Social Security’s Blue Book, you may still qualify for SSDI under a medical-vocational allowance, but you must prove you cannot work a full-time job.

The Social Security Administration knows that Multiple Sclerosis is an episodic disease with periods of relapse and periods of remission and will perform a Residual Functioning Capacity (RFC) assessment. Social Security will evaluate the frequency and length of relapses, the time between episodes, and the presence of permanent impairments.

Multiple Sclerosis is expensive to manage and can be a debilitating.

The average yearly cost of treating MS ranges from $30,000 to $100,000, depending on the severity of the condition. If you have Multiple Sclerosis and it has affected your work life, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.

The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.

  1.   The Duration of Work test.   Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
  2.   The Current Work Test.   Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.

The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.

  1.   Are you working?   Your disability must be “total”.
  2.   Is your medical condition severe?    Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
  3.   Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments?   The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
  4.   Can you do the work you did before?   SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
  5.   Can you do any other type of work?   If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.

More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.

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Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.

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