Multiple sclerosis (“MS”) is a complex neurological disorder that causes injury to the protective sheath of the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. It comes in many forms and can have effects that vary from balance problems, visual disturbance, widespread muscle pain, fatigue and mental fogginess. The limitations experienced by those who suffer from MS vary so greatly because the body system affected is dependent on which part of the brain the disease has affected. A common form of multiple sclerosis, relapsing/remitting, typically results in discrete periods of intense symptoms followed by long periods of relative improvement in symptoms.
For those who suffer from relapsing/remitting MS, it can be difficult to get approved for disability benefits. This is true because of the long periods of relative improvement in their condition called remissions. However, remission is a deceptive term. Actually, people with relapsing/remitting MS often continue to suffer from debilitating limitations of function even between periods of acute symptomology referred to as “attacks”. For this reason, it is imperative that your neurologist is willing to acknowledge you would continue to suffer from limitations of function even in between your attacks. For instance, during an attack an MS sufferer might have trouble even walking. However, even when they are able to walk again, they might still suffer from extreme fatigue and mental fogginess.
In order to be considered disabled on the basis of MS, you must have a relationship with a neurologist who is willing to acknowledge your specific limitations of function in detail. In order for your neurologist to be able to do this, you must tell them what your limitations are. Too often, I talk to people who do not adequately describe their daily limitations of function to their doctor. Unless your doctor knows, she cannot treat you properly and she cannot tell me what your limitations are. It is also critical that you are fully compliant with all recommended treatment.
Even if you are not disabled on the basis of MS alone, your symptoms could contribute to causing you limitations of function that, in combination with your other medical conditions, could limit you enough for you to be considered disabled. If you are seeking disability benefits on the basis of MS alone, the Social Security Administration’s listing of impairments covers the requirements for that. They are listed below.
11.09 Multiple sclerosis. With:
- Disorganization of motor function as described in 11.04B; or
- Visual or mental impairment as described under the criteria in 2.02, 2.03, 2.04, or 12.02; or
- Significant, reproducible fatigue of motor function with substantial muscle weakness on repetitive activity, demonstrated on physical examination, resulting from neurological dysfunction in areas of the central nervous system known to be pathologically involved by the multiple sclerosis process.