Multiple Sclerosis and Disability Benefits
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive and insidious disease that affects the central nervous system. Parts of the body that are affected by MS include the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves to name a few. As time passes, the symptoms of MS get worse, and those inflicted with it can often no longer continue to work. When this happens, you can apply for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA). Below is valuable information that will help anyone who needs to apply for disability benefits due to MS.
In general, anyone who applies for disability benefits, must have suffered, or be expected to suffer, from their ailment for at least one year. The nature of MS makes this qualification difficult to meet. MS is episodic in nature, meaning there are periods of illness as well as periods of remission when there are no symptoms present. To account for the sporadic nature of the disease, the SSA will look at the periods when the condition is exacerbated and notate the duration and severity of each episode as well as the length of time between episodes. They will also look at any permanent impairments that are a direct result of the MS.
MS affects the human body in many ways. Some outward symptoms that contribute to its disabling nature include:
– Loss of balance
– Problems walking
– Lack of Coordination
– Bowel and Bladder problems
– Numbness, tingling or pain in the face, arms or legs
– Hearing loss
– Problems concentrating
– Memory problems
– Speech problems
– Difficulty chewing and swallowing
Meeting the MS Disability Listing
MS has its own listing in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments under the “Neurological Disorders” category. However, there are different listings for adults and children with MS. According to the Listing of Impairments, you can qualify for disability benefits with MS under the following conditions:
– The inability to control the movement of at least two extremities resulting in difficulty balancing or
– Marked physical problems combined with marked limitations with
– Thinking, understanding, remembering or applying information
– Interacting with others
– Finishing tasks due to lack of speed, persistence or concentration.
Note: Children with MS only need to meet the first set of requirements.
Required Medical Evidence
If you apply for disability benefits because of your MS, you must present specific medical evidence to prove your claim. The first piece of evidence you will need is the official diagnosis from your doctor. There are several different types of tests that help to determine the severity of MS. The type of test you take will be dependent on the type of MS you have, severity of it and the body part that is affected by the symptoms. Whether you take imaging tests such as MRI and X-rays, a lumbar puncture or other diagnostic test, be sure to include the results with your application. Other types of medical evidence you should include with your application include:
– Doctor’s notes
– Eye test results
– All relevant test and lab results
Your Ability to Work
To qualify for benefits, your MS must be severe enough to limit your ability to perform your job at an optimal level. However, before you are granted benefits, the SSA will assess your ability to work at any job based on your current ailments, education, age and work experience. To do so, the SSA will conduct a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) evaluation. This evaluation will test your ability to perform specific functions, such as sitting, standing, pushing and pulling, to determine the level of your limitations. The evaluation will also assess your mental acuity to check your ability to understand, remember, and carry out instructions.
Helping to Prove your Case
Although the acceptance of your application will be based primarily on the medical evidence you provide, it is helpful to include supplemental information as well. If you need to use assistive devices such as a cane or wheelchair, get a prescription for them from your doctor. The presence of the prescription will help to show how your MS has affected your daily life. Keep a diary of your daily activities. Keep track of activities that are harder or take more time to do than they previously did. When you physically keep track of the degeneration your body experiences, it will hold more weight with the judge. Provide testimony from third parties who are familiar with how your MS affects you. Consider reaching out to family members and coworkers who knew you both before and after your diagnosis. Also, be sure to disclose any other medical issues you have. They may help to prove your case and may show you are unable to do other types of work.
Work with an Attorney
Applying for disability benefits with MS can be a long and stressful process. It is best to go through the process with a qualified and experienced disability attorney on your side. Statistics have proven time and again, simply having an attorney with you during your hearing can increase your chances of having your claim approved without having to go through a long and complicated appeals process.