Have Questions About SSDI and SSI? Check Out Our FAQs
Dealing with Social Security Disability always comes with plenty of questions. Here are some of the questions we hear the most at our Omaha law firm.
- Page 1
What Are the Causes of Multiple Sclerosis and How is it Treated?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is considered an unpredictable and debilitating disease that affects the central nervous system. The body's own immune system attacks the myelin coating that protects the nerve fibers and interrupts the communication between the brain and the rest of the body. But, what are the causes of multiple sclerosis and how is it treated? Keep reading to find out.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes the severity of MS and lists it in the Neurological section of its Blue Book. But even though this disease is included in the listing of impairments, getting a disability claim approved for MS isn't always easy. That's why it's helpful to hire a Social Security Disability lawyer to step you through the claims process and advocate on your behalf.
What Are the Causes of Multiple Sclerosis?
The exact causes of multiple sclerosis are unknown. However, researchers believe there are four main factors that may influence the development of MS:
- Genetic factors. Researchers believe that several genes factor into MS. You may be at an increased risk of developing MS if you have a close relative with the disease. Additionally, if one parent has MS, there is a two to five percent chance that any children will get the disease.
- Infectious factors. Researchers are studying the possibility that bacteria and viruses cause MS, and they're looking specifically at the measles virus, human herpes virus, and the Epstein-Barr virus. Viruses can cause inflammation and demyelination—the breakdown of myelin that protects nerve fibers. Researchers think it's possible that a virus could be an underlying cause of MS.
- Environmental factors. Vitamin D is believed to play a role in protecting against MS. The farther away you live from the equator, the greater your risk of developing this disease. Because sunlight is a primary source of vitamin D for the body, researchers think there's a link between exposure to sunlight and a reduced risk of getting MS. For example, people who live in northern states are twice as likely to develop MS as those who live in Texas or Louisiana.
- Immunologic factors. When people suffer from MS, their immune system fails, and it attacks the body's central nervous system. Researchers don't know why the immune system targets and attacks the myelin coating of the nerve fibers.
Types and Symptoms of MS
MS is considered a progressive disease. The symptoms of MS worsen over time and become increasingly disabling. Ultimately, a patient will suffer the loss of many body functions even if they have few symptoms. Each person experiences the symptoms of MS differently, and while some people face ongoing functional deterioration, others live for long periods of time without serious symptoms. The following highlights some of the different types of MS:
- Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS). RRMS is considered the most common form of MS, and approximately 85 percent of people who suffer from MS are first diagnosed with it. When new symptoms occur, patients with RRMS have flare-ups, relapses, or exacerbations. Following acute attacks, patients usually have a partial or complete recovery called remissions.
- Secondary-Progressive MS (SPMS). For patients suffering from SPMS, the symptoms will get worse over time whether or not they experience relapses or remissions. Most patients who are initially diagnosed with RRMS will ultimately develop SPMS.
- Primary-Progressive MS (PPMS). Only about 10 percent of people who suffer from MS will develop PPMS. It presents initially as slowly worsening symptoms and reduced neurologic function with no remissions or relapses.
- Progressive-Relapsing MS (PRMS). This is a rare form of MS, and only about five percent of individuals suffering from the condition have PRMS. Patients with PRMS see steadily worsening symptoms from the very beginning with acute relapses, with or without recovery.
Patients who suffer from MS cope with a variety of symptoms that can be both challenging and disabling. These symptoms, which can impact many parts of the body, include:
- Loss of hearing
- Dizziness and loss of balance
- Problems swallowing and chewing food
- Problems with speech or slurred speech
- Issues with memory and concentration
- Issues with depression
- Problems with coordination and walking
- Problems with bladder and bowels
- Problems with double vision and/or loss of vision
- Problems with tremors
- Problems with cognition
Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis
The main goal in treating MS is to slow down the progression of the disease, minimize symptoms during a flare-up, and improve functionality. Drugs that help slow the advancement of the disease are called disease-modifying medications. One drug approved in 2012 for people suffering from MS was Teriflunomide (Aubagio). One study found that people with relapsing MS who took Teriflunomide showed decreased progression of the disease and had fewer relapses.
In 2013, another disease-modifying drug was approved for those suffering from MS. Designed for those with RRMS, Dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera) helps stop the body's immune system from attacking itself and destroying the myelin coating on the nerve fibers. Additionally, because myelin destruction impacts the communication between the nerves, a body's ability to move is often affected. Studies found that the drug Dalfampridine (Ampyra) increased walking speed in people with MS.
Contact Cuddigan Law for MS Disability Benefits
If you've been diagnosed with MS and the SSA determines that your condition severely limits your physical and mental ability to do routine, typical activities and prevents you from holding a job, it may grant disability benefits. Cuddigan Law handles Social Security Disability claims for clients who need assistance with their applications or the appeals process if their claim was denied. Contact Cuddigan Law to speak with an intake specialist for free about your situation.
Can I Keep Working With Multiple Sclerosis?
While MS patients may continue working with multiple sclerosis for years after their diagnosis, the disease is often aggravated by stress. Both mental and physical labor can bring on physical symptoms, making it nearly impossible to tell when the benefits of working outweigh the problems caused by your job.
Cognitive Conditions Make Working With Multiple Sclerosis More Difficult
In addition to pain, immobility, and other physical symptoms, MS sufferers commonly experience mental changes caused by chronic illness, side effects of medications, frustration with their limitations, or even the condition itself, making it harder to keep working with multiple sclerosis. Patients may suffer mood changes, confusion, irritability, and forgetfulness. In addition, many people struggle with extreme fatigue and the need to rest for long periods.
If you are experiencing cognitive or emotional changes as a result of MS, you may be eligible for Social Security disability payments. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will evaluate your ability to keep working with multiple sclerosis despite your condition. This is called your residual functional capacity (RFC). Your RFC for mental side effects may include your:
- Cognitive capacity. Memory loss and lack of concentration are common in MS patients, so you should outline any limitations you have experienced in your ability to remember, understand, and carry out instructions. If you have difficulty sleeping or are so tired that you have difficulty finishing tasks, your sleep disturbances and fatigue may qualify you for benefits.
- Social capacity. Extreme mental or emotional changes may make it difficult to get along with others or conform to social conventions in the workplace. Also, anxiety about your condition can make going into your workplace unnecessarily stressful. Additionally, depression is a common symptom of MS, and it's important that this be documented in your claim.
- Learning capacity. The SSA will consider if there are any other jobs you could do before they approve you for benefits.
Call Cuddigan Law for Help Getting MS Disability Benefits
Many people are denied SSDI the first time they apply. Usually, this is because they don't provide all the necessary documentation to support their diagnosis. Let Cuddigan Law help you. We'll assist in documenting your condition, and we'll work with your treating medical providers to describe the full extent of your limitations. We know exactly how much these disability benefits mean to you. If we accept your case, we will take all steps within the law to help you get them. Learn more in our free booklet, Why You Should Hire an Attorney to Handle Your Social Security Disability Claim. If MS is making it impossible for you to work, contact Cuddigan Law to speak with an intake specialist for free.
Answers to Some of the Most Frequently Asked Questions About MS
Whenever a person is diagnosed with a disease or disorder that will change the way they live life, they likely have many questions about the issues and challenges they'll face and how to best manage life moving forward. Here are some clarifying answers to frequently asked questions about MS.
What Are the Warning Signs of MS?
The warning signs of MS aren't always obvious, and they're different for every patient. Symptoms can be intermittent in the early stages of this disease—and a person may experience one symptom for a while and then no symptoms for months or years. However, here's a brief look at some symptoms that are the most common first signs of the disease:
- Weakness and fatigue. Approximately 80 percent of people diagnosed with MS have unexpected muscle weakness in the early stages of the disease. This weakness usually begins in the legs, and the patient may feel numbness or tingling in the limbs. They may experience severe exhaustion that goes on for a long period of time.
- Vision problems. An early sign of MS is a problem with eyesight—in fact, it's often the very first symptom of someone developing MS. This disease can cause inflammation of the optic nerve, and a person may experience blurry vision or double vision at the onset of MS. Additionally, there may be lesions in the area that controls eye movement, and a patient may have blindness in one eye.
- Memory complications. It's common for a person with MS to have cognitive problems because this disease impacts the brain. Patients may have a shorter attention span, memory issues, and trouble being organized. However, fewer than ten percent of people with an MS diagnosis suffer from cognitive issues severe enough to impact their daily routine.
- Bladder problems. A person with MS may experience frequent urination, strong urges to go to the bathroom, or incontinence.
Is There a Special Diet That Can Improve MS Symptoms?
There isn't a special diet recommended for people suffering from MS. However, certain foods and approaches to eating have been shown to help improve some of the symptoms of MS. Here's a brief look at some of the findings regarding diet and MS:
- A diet that incorporates very few vegetables but is high in sugar, salt, and fat has been linked to an increased risk of developing MS. Additionally, those who are obese have a higher risk. Thus, there may be indications that diet could play a role in developing this disease.
- While researchers haven't discovered a diet to cure MS or slow or reverse the damage of this disease, some dietary regimens have been helpful for managing symptoms. More specifically, those diets that were found to be helpful did so in reducing fatigue. Researchers have found that a nutritional plan low in fat, sugar, and processed foods but high in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits is considered a "common-sense approach" for people dealing with MS. This type of diet helps reduce fatigue, and if a patient adheres to this diet for an extended period of time, it can help improve some of the other symptoms of MS, including bowel and bladder problems. Additionally, eating within these parameters can help improve mental and emotional health.
Can Women With MS Still Have Children?
Having MS doesn't prevent a woman from becoming pregnant or having a safe, normal pregnancy. And researchers have no evidence that MS interferes with fertility. In fact, pregnancy is linked to an MS remission—especially when the mother is in the second and third trimesters. Pregnancy seems to have a slightly protective effect on a woman's MS symptoms; however, about six months after the birth of the child, there's a slightly higher risk of an MS relapse.
Will People With MS End Up in a Wheelchair?
It's not true that people who suffer from MS will rely on a wheelchair for mobility. In fact, for a great majority of MS patients, this won't be the case. Many people with this disease are able to walk without help and even engage in moderate exercise. Because there are disease-modifying drugs and treatments available, more patients stay mobile for longer periods of time. However, patients with advanced conditions who can still walk may choose to use a cane, scooter, or wheelchair to prevent falling or to conserve energy.
Cuddigan Law Can Help
If your MS makes it difficult for you to sustain gainful employment and you need disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), the attorneys at Cuddigan Law can help. We offer skilled legal advice to step you through the application process to help you get the benefits you need and deserve. If your claim is denied, we can help you file an appeal. We know exactly how much these disability benefits mean to you. If we accept your case, we will take all steps within the law to help you get them. Learn more in our free booklet, Why You Should Hire an Attorney to Handle Your Social Security Disability Claim. If MS is making it impossible for you to work, contact Cuddigan Law to speak with an intake specialist for free.
If you found this blog post helpful, share it with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter.
What do I need to qualify for MS disability benefits?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is considered a qualifying disability by the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, a diagnosis of MS is not enough to show that you are disabled. Read on to learn what you need to qualify for MS disability benefits in Nebraska.
MS is a progressive disease, and patients with early-stage MS may have few symptoms. They are usually able to continue working for years or even decades after the diagnosis. However, the symptoms progress with time. In some patients, MS becomes completely debilitating and prevents any type of work activity.
How the SSA Evaluates MS Applicants
When evaluating an MS applicant for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the SSA will first look to see if the applicant meets the impairment criteria listing 11.09 (multiple sclerosis) in the Blue Book. An applicant who meets a listing is automatically approved for SSDI.
To qualify, you must provide evidence that you experience disorganization of motor function in two extremities that limit your ability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use the upper extremities. However, if you don't meet the MS criteria in the Blue Book listing, the SSA will consider your age, education, and work experience and will assign you a residual functional capacity (RFC) level—a medical assessment of the type of work you can do. They will look at marked functional limitation in the following areas:
- Interacting with others
- Concentrating or maintaining pace
- Understanding, remembering, or applying information
- Adapting or managing yourself
The evidence you provide must show how these limitations interfere with your ability to work or prevent you from working at all. If the SSA determines that you can't do any of the work you've done in the past or any other type of work, you will be approved for disability benefits.
Contact Cuddigan Law for MS Disability Benefits in Nebraska
If you've been diagnosed with MS, it's still up to you to prove how this disease affects your ability to work. Many people who are unable to work are denied SSDI because they haven't provided adequate documentation about their disability. Obtaining legal representation from a skilled and experienced Social Security disability attorney is your best chance of submitting a successful claim and receiving MS disability benefits in Nebraska.
Contact Cuddigan Law to get help filing your claim. Our disability attorneys can help you document your condition, and we'll file your application in our office. If you've been denied SSDI for MS, don't give up. You have sixty days to appeal, and our attorneys can assist you. If you're seeking help with your disability claim, contact Cuddigan Law to speak with an intake specialist for free.
Is it possible to get Social Security disability benefits for migraines?
Yes, it is. However, it’s not easy. Migraine headaches are not included in the Social Security Administration (SSA) Blue Book listing of impairments, but you can get Social Security (SS) disability for migraines if you can provide documentation that your migraines are severe and frequent enough to prevent you from holding a job and are diagnosed as primary headache disorder.
Evidence Needed for Migraine Disability
The SSA wants proof that you need disability for your migraines. This proof comes in many forms, including a doctor’s medical report diagnosing the condition, lab test results, and exams that exclude other conditions that could cause the headaches.
At a minimum, the SSA needs:
- Documentation from your doctor verifying your diagnosis of primary headache disorder
- Notes from your doctor detailing the frequency and severity of your migraines
- Medical records showing you've tried treatment and still suffer disabling effects from your migraines
- A headache journal with specific details about your migraine attacks
Information to Include in Your Headache Journal
A headache journal supplements your medical records and gives the SSA information about how migraines affect your ability to function. Making notes about your symptoms, the duration of the migraine, the intensity of the pain, the medication you take, and if you made a trip to the doctor or emergency room for medical attention supports the diagnosis that your migraines are a medically determinable impairment of a primary headache disorder.
Every time you get a migraine, you should write down the following details:
- The date the migraine occurred and the duration
- What you believe triggered the migraine
- Any medications you took and how they affected you
- The severity of the pain
- Any symptoms other than a headache
- What you did during the headache
- What you were not able to do because of the migraine
- Any effects before or after the headache
- How long it took to recover from the episode
The more detail you can give about symptoms, including if you were nauseous, dizzy, or couldn’t get out of bed, the more information you give your doctor to support the diagnosis. Bring the journal with you to each appointment, and make sure the doctor enters the information into your medical records.
Cuddigan Law for Your Migraine Disability Claim
If you suffer from migraine headaches that make it difficult to work, you may want to apply for SS disability benefits. However, submitting a successful claim can be a difficult and frustrating process. Hiring a disability attorney can be the best way to help ensure a successful outcome for your claim.
The trusted attorneys at Cuddigan Law are skilled and experienced in SS disability law and have handled disability claims for over 25 years. If you need help with your application or a denied claim, contact Cuddigan Law by filling out the form on our website or by calling our Omaha or Lincoln office to speak with an intake specialist for free. For more tips, request a free copy of our booklet, Give Yourself the Best Chance of Winning Your Social Security Disability Case.
Which Social Security Disability cases often receive a durational denial?
You may receive a durational denial after submitting a claim for Social Security (SS) Disability benefits. This type of denial means your medical condition, illness, or injury didn’t meet the time period requirements set by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that define a true disability.
Reasons Claimants Receive Durational Denials
When a disability examiner reviews your application, he looks specifically at your medical condition and whether it meets the following durational requirements:
- It’s impossible for you to work for 12 months at a substantial gainful level due to a physical or mental condition.
- Your physical or mental condition will likely prevent you from working for 12 months.
- It’s not expected that your mental or physical condition will improve in 12 months.
- It’s likely your mental or physical condition will result in death.
If your claim is denied due to durational limitations, it means the claims examiner didn't find sufficient evidence to prove your condition will be persistent and continue to interfere with your ability to work after a 12-month period.
Cases That Often Receive Durational Denials
Providing medical evidence that proves your condition will last beyond 12 months is critical in receiving an approved claim from the SSA. However, it’s often tough to do this.
Not only does the examiner who reviews your case have little–to–no medical experience, the medical consultant who helps make the determination doesn’t know or understand your condition.
Both are making decisions about your case using their own individual perspectives and opinions to forecast the likelihood of your recovery.
Certain cases in particular tend to receive durational denials, including:
- Car accidents that result in broken bones
- Accidents that cause traumatic injuries
- Recoveries after major surgeries
In cases involving broken bones, the SSA evaluates how the break impacts your ability to do your job on a daily basis. A claims examiner wants to understand how your fracture interferes with your ability to perform at work. For example, the SSA's Blue Book of Impairments requires that for a broken leg bone, the bone must fail to have a “solid union,” and this must be shown through X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and other medical imaging. Additionally, your inability to move around must be expected to last at least a year.
Contact Cuddigan Law
Over 60 percent of initial SS claims are denied, which is why the best way to avoid receiving a durational denial is to contact a skilled SS disability attorney. The legal team at Cuddigan Law understand the complex rules governing Social Security Disability benefits law, and our experts know how to assist you with an appeal should your claim be denied.
Call Cuddigan Law at (402) 933-5405, to get help with your SS disability application today. Let our experienced lawyers go to work for you. Contact us to speak with an intake specialist for free.
Why does the SSA care about work history for my disability claim?
Your past employment is a significant part of your Social Security (SS) disability claim. A claims agent scrutinizes your job history before deciding whether you qualify for benefits.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses this information because it compares the types of work you were able to do previously against your medical condition, injury, or illness and how it affected your ability to do those jobs now.
Understanding How Past Work Is Relevant
To determine if you’re disabled, the SSA typically looks at paid work you did in the last 15 years that involved productive mental and physical activities. If the SSA determines this job history is relevant, it compares your ability to work with:
- The tasks, activities, and duties you performed in any of those past, relevant jobs.
- How the work you performed in those jobs is typically done in the “national economy.”
You must provide the SSA with a complete and detailed account of your job history so the agency can make these comparisons. Once the SSA evaluates your past work duties and your disabling medical condition, it decides eligibility in three ways:
- You’ll be denied benefits if the SSA determines you don't have a disability because you can still do your past work tasks as you did in the past.
- You'll be denied benefits if the SSA determines you can do past work in the way the national economy performs it.
- You may be considered for benefits if the SSA decides you’re not mentally or physically capable of doing any of your past relevant work tasks or how it's done in the national economy. However, to make this determination, the SSA moves on to the final step in the disability process: determining if you can adjust to work you haven’t done before, considering your age, education, and job experience.
Call Cuddigan Law
Filling out the work history portion of your Social Security Disability claim can be tedious and challenging. You may feel uncertain about what to include on your application and which details are the most important.
Contact a skilled SS disability benefits attorney who can help. Call Cuddigan Law for a free, over-the-phone evaluation.
How does the SSA evaluate my job history for a disability claim?
When filing for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits because your medical condition makes it impossible for you to work, you’ll need to provide a work history with your application.
In general, the Social Security Administration (SSA) wants to know about all of your past employment and the tasks you had so it can determine if you're still able to do any of that work.
To make a determination, the agency needs to know the details of your duties and the skills you used to do them.
How the SSA Uses Your Work History
It’s important to remember the SSA won’t rate you as having a disability unless your medical condition or injury prevents you from doing your past job or your ability to adjust to other work. So, the SSA looks at the demands and requirements of your recent employment and compares them with its assessment of your current ability to do work tasks now.
When considering this past work, the SSA examines:
- Employment in the past 15 years
- Jobs that involved “significant and productive physical or mental activities” that you performed for pay or profit
- Work you performed long enough to learn how to do it
Because there are types of employment with similar names but with different responsibilities and requirements, the SSA needs your job history to be thorough and complete. You must provide details such as:
- The titles of all your jobs within 15 years
- A description of your work
- The amount of pay you received
- The number of hours you worked each week
- The types of machinery, equipment, and tools you used
- The knowledge and skill your work required
- The extent of your supervisory or managerial experience
- The amount of time you had to sit, stand, kneel, crouch, carry, crawl, balance, walk, or climb
The SSA will also want you to explain how you changed your job duties or presence due to your medical condition, injury, or illness. For example, if you worked fewer hours, took more sick leave, rested during the day, or took frequent breaks, the SSA needs to know all these details.
Additionally, if the SSA determines you can’t do past work, the agency considers at your education, age, training, and work experience to see if there are other jobs you may be able to do.
Call Cuddigan Law
It’s important to fill out your work history report accurately when applying for disability benefits from the SSA. Because this can be a tedious and challenging process, you may feel uncertain about what to include and which details are necessary. Contact a skilled SSDI benefits attorney who can help. Call Cuddigan Law for a free, over-the-phone evaluation.
Can I receive Social Security Disability benefits for a pre-existing condition?
Most likely, as long as you meet certain Social Security (SS) requirements. For example, if you have a pre-existing condition such as cancer or diabetes, or you were able to work for a while with a condition but then suffered a setback that made employment impossible, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will use certain factors to determine eligibility.
Meeting the Blue Book Requirements
Generally, you'll qualify for SS benefits if you have a pre-existing condition, but you must meet the standard requirements for that condition listed in the SS Blue Book, officially known as the Listing of Impairments. It details the disabling conditions that qualify for benefits, along with information and evidence you need to include with your application to prove that you’re disabled. It also outlines the process the SSA uses to make decisions about approval.
Typically, for most conditions and illnesses, the SSA requires a disability that prevents you from working for at least 12 months.
The Blue Book provides specific criteria about disabling conditions, and it’s written in language meant for medical professionals and SS workers rather than in layman’s terms. Consequently, it can be challenging to understand the Blue Book requirements and to submit a credible and persuasive application that convinces the SSA that you qualify. Because of this, it’s important to hire a skilled and experienced SS disability attorney to help when you have a pre-existing condition and want to file a claim.
Call Cuddigan Law
If you need disability benefits for a pre-existing condition, hiring legal representation can be advantageous in getting your claim approved. The attorneys at Cardigan Law assisted thousands of clients over the years—filling out paperwork, collecting their medical records, calling doctors, and managing them through the application process.
Contact us for a free claim evaluation. We'll review it with you and determine how we can increase your chances of receiving an approval.
Do I need an attorney to file a Social Security disability claim?
It’s possible for people to handle Social Security (SS) disability claims themselves. They can submit their applications and manage the appeals process at all four levels. The Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t require that you have legal representation to engage in the disability process.
However, it’s often the case that the claim will be denied. In fact, only 30 percent of initial SS disability applications are approved. So, while it’s not required that you hire an attorney to help you file your disability claim, it certainly improves your chances of having your claim approved.
Benefits of Hiring a Social Security Disability Attorney
While it’s true that you can manage your own SS disability claim, there are solid benefits to hiring skilled Social Security disability lawyers. At the minimum, you should contact an attorney for a free evaluation.
At that meeting, the attorney will go over your specific situation, discuss your medical condition, and tell you his opinion about your case and whether or not you’re likely to get an approved claim.
There are other advantages to hiring a disability attorney including:
- While you can probably handle the application process on your own, a denied claim and the need to appeal makes the process much more challenging. An SS disability attorney can help you navigate the appeals process as successfully as possible.
- An attorney will explain the medical evidence, reports, and information needed with your application to increase your chance of winning an approved claim.
- Because 70 percent of applications are denied initially, you may simply want to give up if you don’t receive an approval. However, an attorney can explain and guide you through the next steps, providing important information about why you should continue fighting for your claim.
- An attorney will ensure that you meet important deadlines in the appeals process.
Call the Social Security Attorneys of Cuddigan Law to See If You Qualify for Benefits
It’s not mandatory that you hire an attorney to file an SS disability claim. But when you do, you significantly increase the chances of getting an approved claim. The attorneys at Cuddigan Law have assisted thousands of clients through the application process, and they have the experience and skill to handle your claim. Contact us for a free evaluation.