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Multiple Sclerosis

Proving Social Security or SSI Disability for Multiple Sclerosis

A diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) may be initially devastating, but can be nearly a relief to a patient with a swarm of frightening symptoms. MS is characterized by inflammation and demyelination of fibers in the brain and spinal cord, and can manifest in varying ways. It can produce different indicators with each flare-up, and its course is random. This is the challenge for a proving Social Security or SSI disability for Multiple Sclerosis.

Because there are so many signs, the diagnosis can be difficult. MRI testing has recently made this process more exacting, and this has greatly helped disability claimants. Patients complain about fatigue, cognitive impairment, and bowel disturbances. There can be brain stem problems resulting in neuropathy and loss of limb control. There may be complications and side effects from medications. Respiratory or visual problems are common, and there is often depression. The combination of these clinical findings with the MRI makes it possible to diagnose more clearly, and at an earlier stage.

MS is evaluated by Social Security as a neurological disease. Since symptoms are unpredictable, the question turns on assessment of functional abilities.

There may be a clear diagnosis, but Social Security still wants to know how much you can lift or carry, or how long you can sit, stand and walk. Do you need assistive devices such as a cane or walker? There should be an analysis of pain – how does it interfere with concentration, ability to persist in a task, or even the ability to get along with co-workers or a supervisor?

Fatigue can be the major debilitating factor. It’s important to consider this as part of a traditional functional capacity evaluation. How much sleep or rest is required during the day? Be certain to document the effect of fatigue on stamina, but also on gait, visual acuity, motor control and sensory integrity. Are symptoms worse when tired?

Information from the treating physician may be supplemented by letters from family and friends, stating their simple observations: what happens if you try to grocery shop, read, go to a movie, go for a walk? This can fill in the blanks for a judge. Fatigue is often so taken for granted that it is not well documented in medical records. Observations of performance of simple life tasks can be a role for family and friends.

Further Resources:

National Multiple Sclerosis Society – The National MS Society is a collective of passionate individuals who want to do something about MS now.

Multiple Sclerosis Foundation – Motivating, educating and empowering those living with MS.

Disability Evaluation Under Social Security – SSA page that describes criteria for claiming Multiple Sclerosis as a disability.

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