Multiple Sclerosis is a neurological condition that causes inflammation of the myelin sheaths, which are responsible for the protection of communication between the brain and spinal chord. Multiple sclerosis cases vary in symptoms and severity, as the disease can affect both physical and mental functioning.
Put simply, Multiple Sclerosis interferes with the brain’s ability to communicate with the rest of the body through the spinal chord, and with the rest of the body’s ability to communicate with the brain. This causes a shorter life expectancy and a host of physical and mental symptoms for sufferers.
Symptoms Of Multiple Sclerosis
Some of the more common symptoms of multiple sclerosis which can affect your ability to perform meaningful work (and therefore affect your eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits) are neurological symptoms (and MS sufferers can run the whole gamut of neurological symptoms), cognitive impairment, and loss of physical ability due to the interrupted communication between muscles and the brain.
Multiple Sclerosis is listed as a potentially disabling neurological condition by the Social Security Administration. While this doesn’t mean that everyone with MS will automatically qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, it does mean that the SSA has defined standards by which your symptoms can be judged to determine whether you are eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. To be considered for Social Security disability benefits for MS, you should make sure your condition matches the standards put forth by the SSA in their Blue Book.
Multiple Sclerosis and Your Ability to Perform Physical Work
For many who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis, work requiring any degree of physical activity is simply impossible. The Social Security Administration considers you fully disabled from multiple sclerosis if you have functional limitations in two or more of your major limbs (arms and legs). You may also qualify for Social Security Disability benefits if you have lost the ability to perform repetitive actions due to loss of manual dexterity.
Another symptom which typically qualifies MS sufferers for Social Security Disability benefits is visual impairment. To qualify based on vision problems, you must qualify according to the guidelines laid out regarding visual impairment rather than the guidelines specifically geared towards Multiple Sclerosis.
Any conditions which limit your ability to walk, stand, sit, push, pull, lift, bend, or perform any other physical activity should be noted on your Social Security disability application, whether the symptoms are related to your multiple sclerosis or not. A Social Security Disability lawyer can prove helpful in how your symptoms should be reported.
In addition to the fact that they can handle much of the paperwork for you, a qualified Social Security Disability attorney or advocate will know better than the typical claimant what kinds of information the SSA is looking for when adjudicating your Social Security Disability claim.
Multiple Sclerosis and Your Ability to Perform Sedentary Work
Multiple Sclerosis may not immediately affect your ability to work if your employer is able to reasonably accommodate it. For example, you may be able to move workspaces to accommodate reduced mobility, or you may be able to use adaptive devices to make up for reduced vision or dexterity. However, your condition can change over time, and sometimes many of the symptoms of MS prohibit sufferers from performing jobs which are sedentary in nature. Sedentary jobs are jobs which typically require you to sit in one place for several hours at a time.
Many sedentary jobs (especially those available to unskilled workers) involve a need for manual dexterity. Many who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis are unable to perform this kind of work due to the damaged communication between their brains and their hands.
In addition, symptoms such as chronic headaches and mental disorders are common amongst multiple sclerosis sufferers, and any of these conditions can be considered disabling if they are severe enough to hinder you from performing work for which you are qualified or could be trained.
When Is Multiple Sclerosis a Disability?
If you have Multiple Sclerosis, there are a couple of ways that you can demonstrate that it is a disabling condition. The first way is by using the medical criteria laid out in the SSA blue book.
As mentioned, the SSA Blue Book is a guide that has criteria for some of the most common disabilities. Here is the general criteria that must be met in order to qualify for disability benefits with Multiple Sclerosis. You must have one of the following:
- Significant difficulty with motor function in two extremities that makes it hard to perform large movements, precise movements, walk, or stand.
- Visual impairment even after taking corrective measures.
- Mental impairments from organic mental disorders.
If you would like to learn more about the application process in more detail, there is a link below that has more specific information.
Using An RFC To Prove Multiple Sclerosis Is A Disability
Another way to prove that Multiple Sclerosis is a disability is to use what is called a Residual Functional Capacity test. An RFC is useful if you do not meet the exact criteria in the SSA Blue Book, but are still unable to work due to your condition.
An RFC is a series of tests that will help create a clear picture of what you can and cannot do in the workplace. Comparing the RFC to your daily responsibilities is another way to demonstrate to the SSA that your condition has left you unable to work.
Compassionate Allowances And Multiple Sclerosis
The Compassionate Allowances program is available to those that have severe advanced conditions. Similar to the Blue Book, each condition will have a set of criteria that has to be met in order to qualify. The difference is the time that it takes to be rewarded disability. The standard application process can take over a year, however when applying for a Compassionate Allowance, you can have a decision in only a matter or weeks.
Proving That Multiple Sclerosis Is A Disability
No matter the set of criteria that you use to prove that Multiple Sclerosis has left you unable to work, you will be required to prove the state of your condition using medical documentation. Explain to your doctor that you are applying for disability benefits and they will be able to run diagnostic tests that are specifically tailored to the Blue Book listing.
Tests such as reaction tests, body imaging, vision tests are all great evidence to use in your Multiple Sclerosis disability case You should include any sort of diagnosis that a doctor has given you. In addition to the ability to run tests, you will need a doctor to fill out an RFC form if you play on applying for disability benefits that way.
Expanded Disability Status Scale
Multiple Sclerosis is a complicated condition that can progress at difference speeds for difference people. Because of this, the Expanded Disability Status Scale was created. This scale, created in the 1950’s. Disability levels are rated on a scale of 1-10 and an individuals rating is given based on their functional ability.
EDSS is important for Multiple Sclerosis because each level is has a clear definition. This rating can be used as evidence in an SSDI application. In addition, EDSS is also important because it can help track the progression of condition. If your MS is progressing quickly, you will be able to have an idea of when you will no longer be able to do the tasks that are required at work.
Applying for Social Security Benefits
As with applying for any condition, the process to apply for benefits based on your condition can be a confusing ordeal. However, you can find some resources about applying with multiple sclerosis here:
- Applying for Disability Benefits With Multiple Sclerosis
- Tips for applying for Benefits With Multiple Sclerosis
In addition, if you have malignant multiple sclerosis, you may qualify for a Compassionate Allowance, which can allow you to qualify for benefits in less that ten days. You can find out more about that process here:
Consult with a Social Security Attorney
If your disability claim is not initially accepted, you should consult a Social Security Disability lawyer. An experience Social Security Disability attorney can help you put your appeal together and will give you the best chances of ultimately having your claim accepted during the Social Security Disability appeals process.