March is Multiple Sclerosis Education and Awareness Month. The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation uses these 31 days to promote awareness of what multiple sclerosis (MS) is and how it affects those who suffer from it.
Another goal during the month of March is to inform patients who have MS about new research discoveries and treatment options to help them make decisions about their health.
Because of this context, it’s a great time to learn more about how MS affects those who apply for Social Security disability benefits.
MS Qualifications for Social Security Disability
Not everyone who’s diagnosed with MS will automatically qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) or supplemental security income (SSI). Those with severe symptoms like being confined to a wheelchair usually qualify under the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) listing of impairments. A patient can also qualify if they have a combination of physical and mental/emotional limitations.
However, for those with moderate symptoms, or symptoms that only interfere with daily life on an irregular basis, the application process can be trickier. In these cases, applying and getting approved for SSDI will likely involve multiple conversations with your doctor, and you could benefit from having a Social Security disability attorney review and prepare your application.
Other Ways to Qualify
The SSA knows that MS expresses itself through a wide variety of symptoms, and they allow patients with MS to qualify under other listings depending on their symptoms. The following list is a summary of common side effects of MS that may qualify patients for SSDI or SSI, but is not a fully exhaustive list.
To get a more accurate evaluation of how your experience with MS may or may not qualify you to receive Social Security disability benefits, you should talk to a qualified Social Security disability attorney.
Under listing 12.00, the SSA describes neurological impairments that can qualify people to receive benefits. A few specific symptoms of MS that may qualify under these impairments could be:
- Cognitive Impairment: Most often evidenced by disturbances of memory, executive function, perception, or judgment
- Depressive or Bipolar Disorders: Characterized by sudden changes in mood, increased irritability, or loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities
- Anxiety or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders: Symptoms include restlessness, excessive worrying, irregular sleeping patterns, and muscle tension.
To be considered eligible for Social Security disability benefits for MS under mental impairments, a patient will have to provide evidence that satisfies the SSA’s medical criteria and either functional criteria or seriousness and persistence criteria.
The SSA may choose to evaluate a patient who has MS under the criteria for visual disorders if their loss of vision contributes significantly to their application. The following types of visual impairment may help contribute to your MS Social Security disability application:
- Loss of Central Visual Acuity: Vision remaining in the “good” eye after best correction is 20/200 or worse
- Reduction of the Visual Field: Peripheral vision is dramatically reduced or the field of visual acuity is narrow
- Loss of Visual Efficiency: Visual efficiency is below 20 percent or impairment value is greater than 1.00
Though these factors can contribute to a Social Security disability application, visual impairment may not guarantee your MS disability will be granted benefits by the SSA.
Due to how frequently MS patients experience fatigue (whether physical or mental), the SSA considers the effect of this symptom along with the rest of a patient’s application.
According to the National MS Society, the SSA considers the “intensity, persistence, and effects of fatigue on her or his functioning.” Applicants will therefore need to prove their fatigue is both directly caused by MS and affects their everyday life.
Guidance from an Indiana Disability Attorney
Because of the widespread side effects of multiple sclerosis, it’s nearly impossible to predict how a single patient should gather information for their Social Security disability application. We share this information to help raise awareness during Multiple Sclerosis Education and Awareness Month about the options available for those who have been diagnosed with MS and are seeking SSDI or SSI benefits.
Social Security disability applications are highly complicated, but with the right help, they can represent your strongest possible chance at getting approved for benefits. Hensley Legal Group’s experienced Social Security disability lawyers take the burden of gathering information and filing these applications so you can focus on staying healthy. Contact us today for a free conversation.