Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the central nervous system, such as the optic nerves, spinal cord, and brain. It is a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse over time. There are different types of MS with varying symptoms based on the disease progression and periods of remissions and exacerbations. These types include:
- Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS)
- Primary-Progressive Multiple Sclerosis
- Secondary-Progressive Multiple Sclerosis
- Progressive-Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis
Most patients with MS have periods of time with few symptoms and other periods of time with sickness. The sick periods are typically called exacerbations, episodes, or relapses, and can last for any amount of time. A remission is the period of time with very little symptoms. In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, the exacerbation period must be expected to last at least 12 months, which can sometimes be hard. Social Security recognizes the episodic nature of MS, so it will take into account the length and severity of the episodes, along with the permanent impairments caused by the disease.
Symptoms of MS:
- Coordination and walking problems
- Issues with bladder and bowel
- Pain, tingling, and numbness in legs, arms, or face
- Concentration and remembrance issues
- Speech Problems
- Loss of Balance
- Weakness and tremors in arms and legs
- Vision Problems
- Hearing Loss
- Difficulties in swallowing and chewing food
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you must meet the following requirements:
- Significant impairment in two or more limbs that make it difficult to walk or use your hands
- Partial paralysis of extremities
- Involuntary movements
- Decrease in vision that glasses are unable to correct
- Memory loss, disturbance in mood, or decrease in IQ due to an organic mental disorder
- Central nervous system causing severe muscle weakness and fatigue
Individuals suffering from MS may qualify for other forms of disability as well as MS, such as loss of hearing or speech and bone fractures.
In order to apply for disability, an individual must be diagnosed with MS. The most common way to be diagnosed is through an MRI which can show demyelination caused by MS. 96% of those diagnosed with MS have shown abnormalities in an MRI. Other common forms of diagnosis are spinal taps, computerized axial tomography, electroencephalograph, evoked potentials, and x-rays.
Medical reports and tests performed by treating physicians are required by Social Security to prove that MS has caused this disability, and it must prove to be severe enough to limit working abilities.
Social Security will assess your ability to work based on your age, work experience, education, and current impairments. They will evaluate your sensory, mental, and physical limitations with a Residual Functioning Capacity Assessment. This will evaluate your ability to perform daily tasks that could be required in a workplace. Social Security will then compare your abilities, job experience, and age to the requirements needed for you to work and will determine whether you will receive benefits.