Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and body. This disease eats away at the protective sheath covering your nerves. This damage then interferes with the transmission of nerve signals between the brain and spinal cord. Basically, what this means is that the flow of information being transmitted from your brain to your nervous system is broken. Because the information flow is interrupted, the typical symptoms of multiple sclerosis include:
- Loss of balance, muscle spasms, problems moving limbs, tremors, weakness, or numbness
- Bowel and bladder symptoms, such as constipation, urinary frequency, or difficulty urinating
- Vision symptoms, including blurriness, rapid eye movements, and vision loss
- Mental symptoms like poor concentration, depression, dizziness, and fatigue
- Speech symptoms such as slurred speech, trouble chewing, or difficulty swallowing
An interesting fact about multiple sclerosis (MS) is that the condition occurs more frequently to people who are farther away from the equator. It is suggested that exposure to naturally produced vitamin D helps protect against immune-mediated disease. Smoking is also shown to increase your chances of developing MS. This condition is not hereditary, but if your mother or father has the gene, then you generally will be predisposed to the disease.
Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis
Diagnosing this condition can often be quite tricky. The reason being is that the symptoms of MS are similar to many other conditions. Generally, this condition is diagnosed by ruling out other conditions. People with MS tend to exhibit the first symptoms of the disease between the ages of 20 and 40. Symptoms can vary widely, depending upon the amount of damage to the nerves and the body part affected.
MS is similar to snowflakes in that no two people have exactly the same symptoms. In the early stages of this disease, your symptoms may come on in shorter periods of time. These “attacks” can last for days, months, or weeks and are usually followed by a period of remission where no symptoms are exhibited. The more severe the disease, the less likely it is to experience periods of remission.
If you suffer from MS, and your condition is severe enough that it affects your ability to work, you should consider applying for the Social Security Disability program. MS tends to be a common condition used when applying for Social Security Disability benefits. This is because the symptoms often include “attacks” or “flare-ups” that tend to be quite disabling. The attacks from this disease can make you unreliable as an employee. If your condition has progressed, you may have difficulties with even attending to your household chores. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes MS as a condition that could qualify you for disability benefits.
There are two ways to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The first way to prove you are disabled under the terms of Social Security is by meeting the Multiple Sclerosis Listing 11.09. The second way you may prove you qualify for disability is if your functional limitations preclude work at any exertional level.
Social Security has determined certain medical conditions are so severe that if you suffer from the condition and the condition is well documented with medical evidence, you will then be found disabled. Being found to meet a Social Security Listing helps you to skip other steps in the determination process, including determining what you are physically or mentally capable of doing. Social Security has determined that MS is one of the conditions that, with the proper medical evidence, you will be found disabled without having to figuratively jump through hoops.
Residual Functional Capacity
If the SSA determines you do not meet or equal a listing, you may still be considered disabled based on your residual functional capacity (RFC). Your RFC describes the most you can do in spite of your functional limitations. It is more common for the SSA to find an individual disabled based upon a residual functional capacity versus a Listing. Your RFC is determined based upon your symptoms, medical records, any opinions from your treating doctors, and also your testimony – whether it be through questionnaires or at a hearing. The SSA will generally hire independent doctors to review your medical records. These doctors will then determine, based upon the treatment notes, what you are physically or mentally capable of doing. For example, if one of your treatment notes states weakness in your left lower extremity with the strength of 2/5, the doctor will generally include in his/her evaluation for the SSA that you are limited in terms of how far you can walk. Physical and mental examinations are extremely important for doctors to draw conclusions from in terms of what the limitations translate to.
As you can imagine, the SSA’s doctors tend to be more conservative than actual treating doctors. This can be because an SSA doctor has not actually formed a treating relationship with you. Or it could be simply that the SSA doctors review so many cases per day and do not spend the time necessary to truly determine the extent of each individual’s limitations. This is why it is always a good idea to obtain your own opinion evidence, generally from your own treating doctor. Opinions from your treating doctor are generally given more weight, as the doctor actually has examined you, likely is specialized in the medical condition for which you’re being treated, and has developed a treating relationship with you.
Filing for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits is extensive. It requires a significant amount of information regarding your medical treatment, work history, and home life. If you are serious about obtaining disability benefits, it is a good idea to seek counsel from an experienced disability attorney, someone who has worked with multiple sclerosis claims before and knows the ins and outs of the system.
At the LaBovick Law Group, we work with many individuals suffering from multiple sclerosis. We know the struggles you are going through and how to properly develop your claim. If you are considering applying for SSD benefits, let us handle the stress of applying for you, so you can focus on healing.