Obtaining disability benefits for Multiple Sclerosis
Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Multiple Sclerosis?
Author: Attorney Lonnie Roach
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 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
- 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:
- Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS).
- Secondary progressive MS (SPMS).
- Primary progressive MS (PPMS).
- Progressive-relapsing MS (PRMS).
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.
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.
This type of MS is a steady progression of the disease with no relapses or remission.
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
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:
- 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.
- Marked limitation (see 11.00G2) in physical functioning (see 11.00G3a), and in one of the following:
- Understanding, remembering, or applying information (see 11.00G3b(i)); or
- Interacting with others (see 11.00G3b(ii)); or
- Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace (see 11.00G3b(iii)); or
- 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.
Lonnie Roach, a partner in the Austin law firm Bemis, Roach & Reed, has successfully assisted hundreds of clients who have been denied long term disability benefits.
A Greenville, Texas client’s MRI showed abnormal signals in both frontal lobes of his brain, demonstrating active, demyelinating disease; lab reports showed spinal fluid and findings positive for oligoclonal bands, as well as a definitive Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis by a neurologist.
He had a left visual field loss, left-side body weakness, numbness and nausea, and required a cane or walker to walk. In addition, our client experienced memory problems. At the time his claim was denied, Prudential wrote that he did not have a diagnosis that supported his subjective complaints. Lonnie convinced them otherwise and benefits were reinstated.
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.
Author: Attorney Lonnie Roach has been practicing law for over 29 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Roach obtained board certifications from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lonnie is admitted to practice in the United States District Court – all Texas Districts and the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Highly experienced in Long Term Disability denials and appeals governed by the “ERISA” Mr. Roach is a member of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, Austin Bar Association, and is a past the director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association (Director 1999-2005) Mr. Roach and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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