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Social Security Disability Benefits For Multiple Sclerosis
I have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Can I get Social Security Disability benefits (SSI/SSDI), Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), or Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI)?
Receiving a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) is just the start. The main focus in a Social Security disability claim is usually on the symptoms you experience from MS and how those symptoms affect your ability to engage in physical and mental work-related activities eight (8) hours per day, five (5) days per week.
Do people with MS qualify for disability?
Multiple sclerosis occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks the protective covering of your nerve fibers called the myelin sheath. This causes problems in how your nerves carry information between your brain and body. As a result, the functions of certain body parts may be restricted or disabled.
The symptoms of MS vary depending on which nerves are damaged. It could be in your limbs, where you may feel numbness or weakness. If it occurs around your eyes, you may experience double vision or loss of vision. Other signs include shock sensations when moving the neck, lack of coordination when walking, fatigue, slurred speech, and bowel problems.
Sadly, there is currently no cure for multiple sclerosis, though certain treatments can help manage it.
Multiple sclerosis is known to be disabling, but to confirm that this condition has disabled you, the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a five-step process:
Step 1. Are you working?
The SSA first reviews your work activity. If you are engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), you will not be found disabled. The amount you must earn to be working at SGA changes each year. For 2018, it is $1,180 per month if you are not blind and $1,970 per month if you are blind. If you are working, and your earnings average more than the SGA limit, then you will not be found disabled. If you are not working, or your earnings are less than SGA, the process proceeds to Step 2 where your multiple sclerosis and any other physical or mental conditions are considered.
Step 2. Is your medical condition “severe”?
For you to be considered disabled, your medical condition must significantly limit your ability to do basic work activities such as sitting; standing; walking; lifting; carrying; understanding, remembering, and carrying out simple instructions; making simple work-related decisions; responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers, and work stress; and dealing with changes in a routine work setting.
By SSA standards, you must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment (or a combination of impairments) that is severe and has lasted or is expected last one (1) year or end in death. If your medical condition is not that severe, you will not be found to meet the requirements for Social Security disability benefits. If your condition is that severe, the SSA goes to Step 3.
Step 3. Does your medical condition meet or equal the severity of a Listing?
There is a list of medical criteria specified by the Social Security Administration. These criteria that are considered to be so severe that you will be found disabled if your medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) matches them. The Adult Listing for multiple sclerosis can be found here.
If your impairment does not match one of the listings, or if the duration requirement is not met, the SSA determines what you’re capable of doing despite your impairments – your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) – and will proceed to Step 4.
RFC is a function-by-function assessment of your maximum ability to do sustained work-related physical and mental activities on a regular and continuing basis (8 hours a day, for 5 days a week) despite the limitations and restrictions resulting from your medically determinable impairments. In short, it is an evaluation of your capacity for full-time work.
Step 4. Can you do any of the jobs you have performed in the past fifteen (15) years?
At this point, the SSA checks if your medical condition prevents you from being able to work full-time at jobs you have done in the past fifteen (15) years. If the SSA decides you can perform any of your past relevant work (PRW), you will be found not disabled. To be PRW, the work must have been substantial gainful activity (SGA); performed in the fifteen (15) year relevant period; and performed long enough to learn the job. If the SSA decides you cannot perform your past relevant work, or you have not worked in the past fifteen (15) years, the SSA goes on to Step 5.
Still here at Step 4, you must present evidence, or in legal terms, you have the “burden of proof”. Two of the strongest types of evidence at this stage are medical records and the opinions of the doctors who are treating you for the conditions that are affecting your ability to work. The strongest medical evidence is what is known as objective medical evidence, or evidence that does not rely upon what you tell your doctors. The strongest opinions are opinions that are offered by doctors who specialize in the condition that is keeping you from working and which are supported by objective medical evidence.
For your objective medical evidence, these are some types of documentation that can support a claim for disability based upon multiple sclerosis:
- Clinical notes
- Results of imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), CT scans, x-rays, and diffuse optical imaging
- Documentation of diagnosis, treatment, and response to treatment.
For specialists’ opinions, these are some types of professionals who specialize in treating multiple sclerosis:
- Neurologists – These doctors are specially trained in the brain and nerves.
- Physiatrists – They design treatment plans to help your body move better.
- Speech language pathologists – These are non-doctor professionals who deal with speech and swallowing.
- Urologists – These doctors focus on urinary problems.
Bear in mind that if you are only treating with your family doctor or primary care doctor for your multiple sclerosis, the SSA may interpret this as meaning that your condition is not that serious (otherwise you would be treating with a specialist). Even if you don’t have health insurance, an experienced Social Security disability lawyer can help you locate sources of treatment.
Step 5. Can you do any other type of work?
Finally, at this point, the SSA has the burden of proof. If you cannot do your past relevant work, the SSA looks to see if you would be able to do other work. It evaluates your medical condition, your age, education, past work experience, and any skills you may have that could be used to do other work. If you can do other work, the SSA will determine that you are not disabled. But if you cannot do other work, the SSA will find you disabled.
If you are over 50, there are special rules that may apply to your claim that can result in a finding of disability even if there is some other work you could perform on a full-time basis. An experienced Social Security disability lawyer will be familiar with these rules and can ensure that they are considered in the evaluation of your case.
Multiple sclerosis can be an incredible struggle, not just physically but also financially. You should not have to carry this burden alone. If you truly need assistance, we at the Gillette Law Group can help you receive benefits that can be a form of relief.
Contact Gillette Law Group
Applying for disability benefits may seem challenging, but you can succeed with our help. Our legal service has enabled numerous claimants like you to pursue highly effective applications that are more likely to get approved by the SSA. We can help you do this, too.
Please don’t hesitate to talk to us for concerns about your application, whether it’s your first or second try. Your consultation with us is free. Call (855) 873-2604 today.