Multiple sclerosis is a progressive autoimmune disease causing inflammation and scarring of myelin sheath. The scarring of myelin sheath leads to exposure of nerve affecting portions of central nervous system, which include brain, spinal cord and optic nerve. This leads to aberration in conduction of impulses presenting as variable clinical manifestations. Symptomatology is different for each individual and may range from mild to severe with progressive worsening of symptoms.
Can I Get Disability Benefits For MS?
Based on the clinical course, MS can be classified into relapsing-remitting MS, secondary progressive MS, primary progressive MS and progressive relapsing MS. All the patients do not qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits and there are qualifying criteria. However, when the disability caused by MS is so severe that it prevents a person from working eight hours a day, five days a week, they can claim for disability benefits.1
To qualify for disability benefits, a close collusion of the healthcare provider and MS patient is pertinent for the claim to be passed by Social Security Administration. Many claims get rejected because healthcare providers and the MS patients fail to address the specific criteria to qualify for the claim, which can be distressing for the patient.
Qualifying Criteria For MS Disability Benefits
A person suffering from MS can qualify for disability benefits, if they have:
Physical Limitations. It includes deterioration of motor functions in two extremities (either arms or legs) that affects their balancing ability to walk or stand, stand up from seated position or use their arms. Evaluation of signs and symptoms including paresthesias, tremor, spasticity, flaccidity, imbalance, tremor, incoordination, dizziness, muscle weakness and physical fatigue will be done to determine physical limitation.
Combination Of Physical, Cognitive And/Or Social/Emotional Limitations. If a person suffers from physical limitation along with disability in understanding, remembering, concentrating, applying information, maintaining pace and managing themselves, then they can be considered for disability benefits. Signs and symptoms of pain, fatigue, insomnia, impairment of vision, concentration, awareness, attention, memory or judgment along with depression and mood swings, in addition to breathing, swallowing ability will be evaluated.
Cognitive Impairment. A person suffering from MS can also be considered for disability benefits, if they have cognitive impairment and/or mood disorders in the presence of mild or absence of physical limitation too. It includes neurocognitive disorders, depressive and bipolar disorders, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders.
These claims of physical and cognitive impairments should be backed by authentic and relevant medical evidence from the physician, psychologist, licensed clinical social workers and mental health counselors. The cognitive disorders should be present for at least two years or decline in cognition along with marked limitation in any of the two functions, including remembering, understanding, interacting with others, applying information, concentrating, adapting oneself or maintaining pace. The physical limitations and presence of MS should be backed by documentation including MRI showing proof of demyelination, abnormal CSF in lumbar puncture and evoked potential showing evidence of slowed, garbled or halted nerve impulses.
The physician has to provide a letter of disorganization functions covered under neurological-adult MS, special senses and speech (including abnormalities of eye, optic nerve and optic tracts that can occur in MS) and mental disorders (including cognitive and mood disorders). It is important to establish a clear connection between a patients documented symptoms, their impact on work related task and specific laws that cover those symptoms.
The process of claiming for disability is a tedious and complex task. It is also important to understand the application process. It is also advisable to work closely with medical professionals in addition to taking into loop a disability advocate or qualified Social Security attorney who are best at understanding and getting the claim passed. However, it is extremely difficult for a young MS applicant to obtain the benefits. But, to get maximum benefits from disability, it is important to have a strong case supported by relevant documentation.
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