Disability Benefits Aren’t Always Available for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

You’ve had a multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis for twenty years. Until recently, it wasn’t really a big deal.  Sometimes your leg felt numb. Sometimes you were tired. You suffered from occasional blurry vision. But recently, your symptoms have gotten more severe. Your muscle spasms are increasing. You have trouble typing or holding a pen because of the shaking in your hands. You are no longer able to do your job.

MS is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system and produces symptoms throughout the body. Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Vision problems, including blurriness, double vision, and eye pain
  • Hearing loss
  • Fuzzy thinking
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Problems remembering
  • Lack of coordination
  • Difficulty walking
  • Loss of balance
  • Numbness or tingling in the face, arms, or legs
  • Tremors in the arms and legs
  • Weakness in the arms or legs
  • Speech problems
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing
  • Frequent urination
  • Constipation
  • Depression

MS is generally a progressive disease, which means that the symptoms get worse with time. Eventually, they become debilitating. Patients with advanced multiple sclerosis may be approved for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI).

To qualify for SSDI, you must show that your condition has lasted or is expected to last for 12 months. This can be hard for those with MS. Most people with MS have periods of severe symptoms, but they also have periods with little or no symptoms. Because the Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes that MS is an episodic disease, the SSA will evaluate the frequency and length of your episodes, as well as your health during and between episodes.

The easiest way to qualify for benefits is to meet a Blue Book listing. MS is listed under Section 11.09 in Neurological Disorders. To be eligible for disability under this category, you must satisfy parts “A” or “B”:

A. Disorganization of motor function in two extremities that results in an extreme limitation in the ability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use the upper extremities.

OR

B. Marked limitation in physical functioning, and in one of the following:

  1. Understanding, remembering, or applying information
  2. Interacting with others
  3. Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace
  4. Adapting or managing oneself

If you don’t meet these qualifications, you can still be approved for SSDI for MS. You may apply under other listings, such as loss of hearing, loss of vision, motor difficulties, or loss of speech, or you can show that your symptoms are equal in severity to those described in the MS listing.

If you're not found to be disabled under a disability listing, the SSA will evaluate your ability to hold a job based on your current impairments, age, education, and work experience.

Many people are denied SSDI the first time they apply. This is not because they don’t qualify, but because they don’t provide all the necessary documentation to support their diagnosis. Our Nebraska SSDI attorneys can help you beat the odds. Learn how an Omaha disability benefits lawyer can help you in our booklet, Why You Should Hire an Attorney to Handle Your Social Security Disability Claim. To schedule a free case evaluation, contact Cuddigan Law at 402-933-5405.