Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disabling condition that has a very unpredictable course. Some people have relapsing forms of the disease, while others continually suffer with symptoms that progressively worsen.
If you have MS and your condition is impairing your ability to work, you might qualify for Social Security disability for multiple sclerosis. For more information about how to apply and for help with the claims process, call a disability lawyer at Lunn & Forro, PLLC for a free consultation: 888-966-6566.
Can multiple sclerosis qualify as a disability?
The effects of MS vary from person to person. The condition may be mild in some, and highly aggressive in others. To qualify as disabled under the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) listing for MS, your condition must meet a certain degree of severity. Section 11.09 of the Blue Book requires that you meet at least one of the following two criteria:
- “Disorganization of motor function in two extremities resulting in an extreme limitation in the ability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use the upper extremities.
- Marked limitation in physical functioning, and marked limitation in one of the following: understanding, remembering, or applying information; interacting with others; concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; or adapting or managing oneself.”
What does “marked limitation” mean? The SSA provides: “Although we do not require the use of such a scale, ‘marked’ would be the fourth point on a five-point scale consisting of no limitation, mild limitation, moderate limitation, marked limitation, and extreme limitation.”
How does the SSA evaluate multiple sclerosis?
The SSA Blue Book provides specific guidelines that claims examiners use to evaluate your condition. When a claims examiner reviews your case, s/he will begin by evaluating your signs and symptoms, such as such as flaccidity, spasticity, spasms, incoordination, imbalance, tremor, physical fatigue, muscle weakness, dizziness, tingling, and numbness.
S/he will use this assessment to determine:
- Your ability to stand up, balance, walk, or perform fine and gross motor movements,
- Whether you have limitations of physical and mental functioning, and
- If you have other impairments or secondary disorders such as vision impairments under which the SSA can evaluate you.
Even if your MS does not quite fit the listing requirements, you may still qualify for disability if your signs, symptoms, and/or secondary conditions are severe enough to impair your ability to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA), or the ability to earn more than $1,130/month.
What are the criteria for disability benefits?
There are several basic requirements you must satisfy to qualify for disability benefits for MS or for any other disability:
- You must have a medical condition that meets the SSA’s definition of disability. This could mean either meeting the criteria for the one of the conditions on the Listing of Impairments, or having another disability (or combination of conditions) that substantially impairs your ability to work.
- You must be unable to engage in SGA.
- A doctor must expect your condition to last a year or longer or result in death.
- You must be unable to do the work you did before and you also must be unable to adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s).
Additionally, you need to meet work history or financial requirements, depending on which of the disability programs you are applying for. If you have a solid history of working at a job covered by Social Security and have a certain number of work credits, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits
Children, those who have never worked, or those who have not worked long or recently enough to qualify for SSDI will instead need to apply for the alternative disability benefit program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI). To meet the financial criteria for SSI, your income and assets must fall below a certain level.
How do I prove my disability so that I can collect benefits?
To justify your benefits, you will need to provide adequate evidence from acceptable medical sources that verify your disability. This includes your medical history, findings of mental and physical examinations, and your diagnosis, as well as results from medical tests such as MRIs, spinal taps, EEGs, CT scans, and evoked potentials.
The SSA will also consider other evidence from non-medical sources that provides insight about your limitations, such as testimonies from your family, social worker, employer, etc.
If your disability does not exactly fit the requirements in the Listing of Impairments under MS, the SSA will further assess your physical, mental, and sensory limitations using physical and mental Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) forms. These forms help the SSA determine what kinds of things you can and cannot do, and whether there are any jobs available that you can perform based on your RFC.
Note: The SSA has very strict requirements and only awards benefits to people that are totally disabled. (It does not give benefits to those with partial disabilities.) Ask a disability lawyer for help filing your claim and proving your condition to the SSA.
Do I have options if I received a denial?
If the SSA has denied your application for benefits, our MS disability lawyers at Lunn & Forro, PLLC can help you appeal your case. We can help gather additional evidence that proves your impairment and request that the SSA reconsider its initial decision. There are actually several levels of appeals we can use, but there are strict limits on each, so it is important to take action as soon as possible.
Let us help you get the benefits you are entitled to. Call our office in Raleigh today to get started: 888-966-6566.
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