I was contacted Molly Clarke about doing a post on my blog about applying for Disability Social Security and I thought this post would fit in with my blog and could possible be useful to anyone out there that needs to apply as well.
Applying for Social Security Disability with Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is a chronic and progressive autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. Symptoms can become debilitating and worsen over time, eventually leading to loss of function that prevents gainful employment. MS comes in multiple forms, including:
- Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS)
- Primary-progressive MS (PPMS)
- Secondary-progressive MS (SPMS)
- Progressive-relapsing MS (PRMS)
Symptoms that accompany each form vary, as does the progressive nature of the disease; however, the Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes each as a disabling condition that can potentially meet the eligibility requirements for receiving Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.
Meeting the SSA’s Definition of Disability
To meet the basic eligibility requirements for disability benefits, your disability must be expected to last at least twelve months. Because MS is an episodic autoimmune disease, meaning there are periods of symptom flare-ups and times when no symptoms may be present at all, satisfying this eligibility requirement can be a bit challenging.
The SSA will closely review your medical records to determine:
- How often your episodes occur;
- How long your episodes last;
- How much time passes in between episodes;
- What your symptoms are during episodes; and
- How impaired you are during your periods of remission.
Because the SSA recognizes the episodic and progressive nature of MS, applications submitted with the diagnosis are typically evaluated first under the MS listing, and then under the “residual functional analysis”, in order to determine if the applicant qualifies.
The SSA’s Blue Book Listing for MS
The SSA utilizes a manual known as the Blue Book to evaluate conditions under standard disability listings. MS appears in the Blue Book under Section 11.00 – Neurological. To meet this listing and qualify for disability benefits, your application and medical records must prove:
- You have partial paralysis, tremors, or involuntary movements in at least two of your limbs, impairing your ability to walk or use your hands;
- You’ve suffered severe vision loss which cannot be corrected by wearing glasses;
- You experience mood disturbances, decreased mental capacity, or memory loss as a result of an organic mental disorder; and/or
- You suffer from muscle weakness and severe fatigue resulting from disruption of signals from the central nervous system, a cornerstone symptom of MS.
MS and Residual Functional Capacity
If your MS does not meet the SSA’s Blue Book listing, you may still qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. The SSA will evaluate your residual functional capacity (RFC) to determine the severity of your condition and whether or not it prevents you from finding and maintaining gainful employment.
Your sensory, memory, mental and physical limitations will be evaluated during the RFC analysis. The SSA will also look at your employment history, your education level, and your acquired job skills to determine if you are able to hold a job.
If your MS is found to limit you so that you cannot reasonably be expected to work, then you may qualify for benefits under a “medical vocational allowance”. This means that your MS symptoms do not meet the Blue Book listing but still prevent you from working.
Medical Evidence in Your MS Disability Application
To successfully apply for disability benefits you must provide medical records that back up your claim. Your application must include records such as:
- MRIs, EEGs, CT scans, x-rays, spinal tap, and other diagnostic results documenting abnormalities and a formal MS diagnosis;
- Vision, hearing and speech evaluation exams, if applicable;
- All other medical records related to the diagnosis and treatment of your MS;
- Results of mental or psychological evaluations, if applicable;
- Documentation of the frequency, duration and severity of your episodes; and/or
- Statements from your treating physician(s) documenting your diagnosis, prognosis and functional capacity.
Because filing for disability benefits can be a long and complicated process, you may find that you need to seek the assistance of a Social Security advocate or attorney. A professional will be able to guide you through the process and possibly increase your chances of approval.
Submitted by: Molly Clarke