Applying for Disability with MS or Multiple Sclerosis

Questions about Applying for Disability?

The following guest post - Applying for Disability with MS - will hopefully answer some questions you have about this perplexing subject. Cir was one of the "lucky" ones, whose application was approved the very first time he applied. We did everything right, I suppose. This article, by Deanna Power, Community Outreach Manager, Social Security Disability Help - should help point you in the right direction as you start this somewhat confusing process.

Applying for Disability with Multiple Sclerosis

More than 400,000 people in the United States have multiple sclerosis (MS), and many of them receive Social Security disability benefits. Although a diagnosis of MS does not automatically qualify you for benefits, when the disease progresses to the point that it prevents you from working, you can meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) eligibility rules.

If you medically qualify for benefits, you may be able to receive support through one or both of the SSA’s disability programs. Benefits are paid monthly and can be used to cover every day bills and living expenses as well as medical costs.

applying for social security disability

Disability Benefit Programs from the SSA

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With MS, you may qualify for benefits through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both programs require you meet the SSA’s medical eligibility rules, but each also has its own technical qualification standards.

  • For SSDI, you must be a disabled worker aged 18-65 with a work history. While most adults must have worked for about 20 years, younger applicants will of course be expected to have worked far less. You must additionally have paid Social Security taxes over the course of your employment.
  • For SSI, no work history is necessary and there are no age limitations, but you must have limited income and assets in order to qualify. Although financial eligibility rules are strictly enforced, many disabled people of all ages are able to receive benefits through this program. You can learn more about how your household income or assets will be evaluated on the SSA’s website.

Medically qualifying for disability with MS requires you meet the MS listing in the SSA’s Blue Book or that you’re able to prove your functional limitations are severe enough that they prevent you from working at all even though you don’t meet the SSA’s listing.

The MS Medical Listing

Multiple sclerosis is a recognized disability but must be in its advanced stages to meet the SSA’s listed medical requirements. There are three ways to qualify for disability benefits with MS. The MS listing notes that you must experience one of the following:

1. You must experience disorganized motor function that affects your ability to stand, walk, hold yourself upright, grasp, reach, or perform other tasks that require dexterity.

2. You experience sensory or intellectual impairments, including:

  • Severe vision loss
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Degraded intellectual abilities
  • Dementia or other memory impairments

3. You experience pronounced fatigue or muscle weakness that can be demonstrated and reproduced during physical exams, especially following repetitive activities.

Regardless of which part of the MS listing you may meet, you must have substantial medical records showing you’ve received ongoing care from a qualified physician and that your MS is formally diagnosed and well documented.

A Functional Review Without Meeting a Listing

Although many people with MS can qualify under the SSA’s listing for the condition, some may not meet the listing but still be unable to work due to their symptoms and MS-related complications. If you can’t meet the listing, you may still be able to qualify for benefits by showing through a “residual functional capacity” (RFC) analysis that you are unable to get and keep any job due to your physical and/or mental limitations.

An RFC looks at your daily activities and your everyday physical and mental challenges. If the SSA finds that you cannot work in any job for which you otherwise hold the appropriate skills, education, experience, or training, then you will be granted disability benefits.

Applying for Disability Benefits

medical bills

With MS, you can apply for benefits at any time and have a strong chance of being approved, provided you meet the technical eligibility rules for SSDI and/or SSI. The average applicant is initially approved around 35% of the time, but keep in mind that this is including all applicants. People applying for a mental illness or young adults applying may have a more challenging time getting approved than adults with MS.

If you are applying for SSDI benefits, you can apply entirely online. For SSI however, you will need to submit an application with your local office, as a personal interview is a standard part of the process. You can schedule an appointment with your local office by calling the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213.

Now that you've read - Applying for Disability with MS - you will have the resources to help you be successful in getting your benefits. If you liked this article and would like more, please let us know by using the form below.

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