Obtaining Social Security Disability Benefits When You Have Multiple Sclerosis

April 26,2016
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If you have multiple sclerosis (MS), you may have experienced severe symptoms that interfere with your ability to work.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes that MS is a potentially disabling condition that could qualify you for Social Security disability benefits.  If you have MS and want to apply for Social Security in White Plains or elsewhere in the metropolitan New York area, the Hermann Law Group can help.


What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis, widely known as “MS,” is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects your central nervous system, which includes your brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves.  It occurs when your immune systems attacks the fatty myelin sheaths surrounding the axons in the brain and spinal cord.  Without the protective myelin, your nerve fibers become damaged which impairs your brain’s ability to send signals throughout your body.  MS is a progressive disease that gets worse as time passes, eventually causing loss of functions even if you had periods of few or no symptoms.


There are fours types of MS:

  • Relapsing-remitting (RRMS) – the most common type of MS, you may have temporary periods (relapses), flare-ups or exacerbations when new symptoms appear.
  • Secondary-progressive (SPMS) – most people with RRMS transition to SPMS. Your symptoms worsen more steadily overtime, with or without occurrence of relapses or remissions.
  • Primary-progressive (PPMS) – an uncommon type of MS, your symptoms slowly worsens over time with no relapses or remissions.
  • Progressive-relapsing (PRMS) – a rare form of MS, you have a steadily worsening of the disease from the beginning, with acute relapses but no remissions, with or without recovery.


What Are the Symptoms for MS?

The most common symptoms you may experience include:

  • Numbness, tingling, tremors or weakness in your extremities
  • Loss of balance
  • Painful muscle spasms
  • Vision impairment such as blurred, double or loss of vision
  • Cognitive impairments such as memory loss
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Hearing loss
  • Speech problems
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing
  • Bowel and bladder problems such as constipation or frequent urination


How Do I Medically Qualify for Disability Benefits?

If your MS is advanced, you have an increased chance of obtaining disability benefits.  One way to qualify for disability benefits is by meeting or equaling the criteria in the “Listing of Impairments,” Social Security disability regulations that list medical criteria for various disorders.  A person is who meets or equals these criteria is disabled. If you do not qualify under the MS listing, you may still be disabled if you can prove that your symptoms severely limit your functions substantially preventing you from engaging in gainful work activity for at least twelve consecutive months.


“Listing of Impairments”

In order to meet the MS listing, you must show you have at least one of the following:

  • Disorganization of motor function. Significant and persistent motor function disorganization in at least two extremities, such as paralysis, paresis (partial paralysis), ataxia (loss of full control of bodily movements), tremors and/or sensory disturbances.
  • Visual Impairment. Vision in your better eye is 20/200 or worse while wearing any prescribed glasses or contacts.
  • Mental Impairment. Involves behavioral and psychological abnormalities attributed to a brain abnormality, or manifested by the presence of certain mental disorders.
    • The abnormality must be severe enough to significantly reduce cognitive function, such as memory loss, personality changes, or disorientation to time and place.
    • Abnormalities must cause more than moderate restriction in your daily life (eating, sleeping, etc.), difficulty in social setting or concentration problems.

Your mental impairment could also meet this listing if, for at least two years, your impairment resulted in:

  • Significant limitation in your ability to do basic activities despite diligently taking your medication and use of proper social support;
  • Repeated periods of significant worsening;
  • Extreme inability to handle even small changes; or
  • Inability to function outside of a highly supportive living environment.
  • Muscle weakness and fatigue. Significant, increasing muscle weakness and fatigue after you are engaged in an activity and was the result of neurological problems in the areas of your central nervous system known to be affected by MS.  Thus, you must provide evidence that you suffer from MS-related muscle and physical fatigue.  Generally, this could be proven with evoked response test exercise.  If your muscle weakness occurs without any activity, then you do not qualify under this listing.


“Medical Vocational Guidelines”

If you’ve been diagnosed with MS but do not meet the criteria for the MS listing, you may still qualify for disability under the medical vocational (or “med-voc”) guidelines (or allowances).  The guidelines evaluate your ability to perform basic work-related activities based upon your age, education, prior work experience, and residual functional capacity (RFC). Your RFC is the most you can do despite your mental and physical limitations caused by your impairments and symptoms.  This also means that if you have other symptoms caused by other impairments, then SSA will consider all of your symptoms and impairments collectively when determining whether you qualify for disability.


What Medical Evidence Do I Need?

To strengthen your claim for disability benefits for MS, our Social Security lawers in White Plains suggest providing the following medical evidence:

  • Tests performed to obtain your MS diagnosis, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), lumbar puncture, or nerve function study.
  • Corroborating neurologist’s diagnosis of MS with a long-term record of symptoms and impairments provided by your primary care physician.
  • Detailed information about your symptoms, especially the limitations imposed on your day-to-day functions.
  • MRI proving demyelination.
  • Spinal tap showing increased myelin basic proteins.
  • Evoked Potential Tests, such as VEP, BAEP’s and SSEP’s, that evidences slowed, garbled or halted nerve impulses.
  • Medical records documenting how your MS affects you, such as doctor’s notes recording any of your reported symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, impaired vision, memory loss, etc.
  • Prescriptions for any assistive devices, such as cane, walker, scooter or wheelchair.
  • Your diary documenting your everyday symptoms and your daily activities.


Contact us

If you are considering filing for SSDI or SSI benefits for MS, or wish to appeal a denial of benefits, the disability attorneys at the Hermann Law Group will:

  • Evaluate your claim.
  • Prepare your initial application or appeal for SSD benefits.
  • Review your medical records and other evidence for consistency and thoroughness.
  • Obtain witness statements from co-workers, employers, friends and family regarding the effect of your symptoms and how they affect your daily activities and work life.
  • Obtain your treating physician’s report regarding your diagnosis, symptoms, treatment, functional limitations, and prognosis.
  • Offer suggestions for how you can increase your chances of a successful application, such as keeping a symptom diary, obtaining regular medical care, and attending all of your medical appointments.


For assistance with a claim for Social Security in White Plains or elsewhere in the New York metropolitan area, call the disability attorneys at the Hermann Law Group at 877-773-3030.