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Social Security Disability - Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

FAQ's - Multiple Sclerosis

Disabling Condition:  Multiple Sclerosis - Condition, Symptoms and Social Security Disability

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease that occurs when the fatty myelin sheaths surrounding the nerve cells (axons) in the brain and spinal cord are attacked and damaged by the body's own immune system. This destruction of the nerve channel coatings disrupts or limits the communications between spinal cord and the brain. This results in symptoms which can include fatigue, chronic pain, weakness, muscle spasms or tremors, and cognitive problems.

MS frequently involves periods of exacerbation of the symptoms which are followed by periods of remission or even improvement. Some MS suffers are capable of working during periods of remission. This cycle of experiencing an increase and a lessening of MS symptoms sometimes results overall worsening of impairments in a stair-step progression of disability.

Diagnosis of multiple sclerosis is difficult especially since early symptoms may be mild or similar to other medical conditions. Your physician will need to review your medical records and to conduct neurological tests. Lumbar or spinal tap puncture, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), blood analysis and other procedures may also be necessary.

Medical basis for claim

Disability examiners and administrative law judges use the Listings of Impairments manual ("Blue Book") as their guide to determine whether a claimant meets or does not meet the Social Security Administration's requirements for total disability. The Blue Book listing for Multiple Sclerosis is found in Section 11.09. The disability claimant must meet one of the three requirements found in this Listing: They are as follows:

A. Disorganization of motor function as described in Listing 11.04B (This requires significant and persistent disorganization of motor function in two extremities, resulting in sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movements, or gait and station); or

B. Visual or mental impairment as described under the criteria in Listing 2.02 (Remaining vision in the better eye after best correction is 20/200 or less), 2.03, 2.04, or 12.02 (organic mental disorders); or

C. Significant, reproducible fatigue of motor function with substantial muscle weakness on repetitive activity which is demonstrated on physical examination and results from neurological dysfunction in areas of the central nervous system known to be pathologically involved by the multiple sclerosis process.

These are difficult standards to meet. A finding of disability based on disorganization of motor functions requires that two extremities are impaired.  This most often means that the claimant has significantly impaired ability to walk due to weakness or spasticity in both legs. If the impaired gate is due to a problem with only one leg, then the claimant may be classified as being able to do sedentary work and the claim denied. If there is a finding that claimant is able to do sedentary work, then the claimant's age (near or over 50 years of age), type of prior employment, and education will become very important factors in determining whether or not benefits are granted under these listing requirements.

The definition of fatigue in the Listings is very precise. The claimant must be experiencing fatigue caused by the MS and the fatigue must be due to muscle weakness on repetitive actions. The fatigue that a claimant is experiencing and the Listing requirements should be discussed with your physician since the disability requirements of the SSA medical Listing are not necessarily a part of the normal tests, observations or diagnosis that a treating doctor performs for his/her MS patients. An MS claimant may experience total physical fatigue, mental fatigue or lassitude, and these are not included within the definitions provided by Listing §12.09C. Your doctor's examination and finding concerning muscle weakness on repetitive actions will be very important. It may also be useful to keep a log or record of daily activity including the types of activity, the need for rest, the frequency of the need for rest and the duration of the rest periods.

Pain is unfortunately often a part of MS. Pain is a not part of the Listing for MS. However, where a claimant experiences frequently recurring or chronic pain then this may an additional basis for a finding that the claimant is disabled and entitled to benefits. For additional information on pain and your Social Security Disability claim see FAQ's: Disabling Conditions - Pain and Chronic Pain.

Pursuing a claim for Social Security Disability benefits on your on is difficult, and you should consider employing a qualified attorney to assist you. Your attorney can help you evaluate your medical records to determine if the medical requirements of the Listing are met.  If not, the attorney can help obtain from your doctor responses to a questionnaire designed to satisfy the very specific requirements of the Listings for MS.

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An experienced attorney familiar with Social Security disability law can help you protect your rights and can help you get the benefits you deserve. We have the knowledge, experience and skill to assist you in dealing with the process of obtaining help from these Social Security benefits programs. We represent disabled individuals in SSA Disability claims throughout North Georgia including Acworth, Atlanta, Canton, Cartersville, Dallas, Kennesaw, Johns Creek, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, and Woodstock. Contact us today to discuss your situation and the benefits you are be entitled to receive.

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