MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS AND WINNING DISABILITY BENEFITS
MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS IS A DISABILITY UNDER SSA’S RULES
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an auto-immune disease that affects the central nervous system. When an individual suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, the disease damages the covers of the nerve cells in the brain. It also damages nerve cells in the spinal cord and optic nerves.
This nerve damage process is called demyelination. Demyelination can cause symptoms such as pain and muscle spasms. You may also experience weakness and fatigue. Other MS symptoms are tremors, balance issues, and feeling dizzy. MS symptoms become more severe over time. At some point, your symptoms may prevent you from working.
Other common symptoms are vision problems, tingling, and numbness in the face or in your arms and legs. Some people experience speech issues, sexual dysfunction, and bladder problems. Other common symptoms are bowel issues and severe fatigue. However, the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis are different for every person.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
There are many symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. While Multiple Sclerosis symptoms can wax and wane, the disease does shorten your life expectancy. Though everyone with the illness experiences different physical and mental conditions, the list below contains the most common symptoms:
Vision Issues: You may experience double or blurred vision. Or, you may experience partial or total loss of vision. Vision problems are usually an early sign of Multiple Sclerosis. The vision problems usually affect one eye at a time. Even though the vision issues may be a first sign of MS, they usually wax and wane and are not chronic.
Muscle weakness: You may develop muscle weakness due to nerve damage.
Fatigue: Severe fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of MS. You may feel fatigue upon exertion, but also feel chronic fatigue even though you have not exerted yourself.
Lhermitte’s sign: You may experience an electric shock sensation when you move your neck. This is known as Lhermitte’s sign.
ADDITIONAL SYMPTOMS OF MS
Bowel and Bladder problems: You may have problems emptying your bladder or you may need to urinate frequently. You may also have loss of bladder control. Bowel incontinence may occur because of muscle weakness. These are early signs of MS.
Balance issues, Dizziness and Vertigo: Problems with balance and coordination are common with MS.
Muscle spasms: You may experience muscle spasms in your legs. Damaged nerve fibers in the spinal cord and brain can cause painful muscle spasms.
Tremor: You may experience involuntary tremors if you have MS.
Emotional issues: Demyelination and nerve fiber damage in the brain can trigger emotional changes. These emotional changes may result in depression, mood swings, and anxiety.
Memory problems: You may experience memory issues and cognitive problems. These issues can make it difficult to concentrate, learn, and remember tasks.
Pain: Neuropathic pain is a common symptoms of MS. This kind of pain feels like burning, stabbing, or sharp sensations. The pain can also feel like cold or electrical sensations. Some people describe a “pins and needles” sensation. These feelings can affect your legs, feet, arms and hands.
DIAGNOSING MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
Multiple Sclerosis is typically diagnosed by an MRI scan. The MRI will show demyelinating lesions in the brain and the spinal cord. These lesions are white matter lesions or plaques. Another way to know if you have the disease is by a spinal tap or lumbar puncture. When the doctors do this, they are looking for oligoclonal bands in your spinal fluid. Usually, your doctor will do both tests.
You need to take your MS tests in a hospital setting. For example, the doctor removes cerebrospinal fluid, using a thin needle, from the low back. The spinal fluid is tested for certain results; oligoclonal bands are a group of proteins that show inflammation of the central nervous system. The presence of these proteins usually means you have Multiple Sclerosis.
HEALTH INSURANCE ISSUES FOR MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
In order to win benefits, you will need to see a doctor who treats your Multiple Sclerosis. Preferably, you will be able to see a neurologist who is an expert in treating Multiple Sclerosis. Hopefully, you have health insurance that will pay for treatment. If so, talk with your doctor before filing your SSDI application.
Make sure you doctor will support your benefit application. This means that your doctor will write about your MS symptoms in her progress notes. Also, make sure your doctor will get you the testing you need to prove you deserve benefits.
For example, you may need psychological testing or speech-language testing. Also, if you have severe fatigue, you may need occupational therapy. Finally, when the time comes, make sure you doctor is willing to write a letter that you cannot work due to your symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.
If you do not have health insurance, we have free and low cost health resources for Utah on this site. We have the same free and low cost resources for Nevada. Wherever you live, there are free and low cost health clinics and doctors who can help treat your symptoms.
MEDICARE & MEDICAID BENEFITS
Remember, once you win benefits, you will not be working. So, you need to plan for health insurance. Medicaid is available for those who win SSI benefits. Medicaid and SSI begin the date of your application. Find out more here about what healthcare services Medicaid covers.
Medicare benefits, however, do not start with the SSD application date. There is a 29 month waiting period before Medicare benefits begin. Find out more information about Medicare benefits here.
The waiting period for Medicare begins from your alleged onset date of disability, not the date of your application. Therefore, the 29 month waiting period starts with a five month waiting period from your alleged onset date of disability.
Next, there is a 2 year waiting period after the 5 months ends. Hence, the 29 month wait. For those with a working spouse who has medical coverage, this may not be a problem. However, for others, this gap in health insurance coverage can be a huge problem. Sometimes, Medicaid benefits can fill the 29 month gap.
SSA’S DEFINITION OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
You can win benefits from the Social Security Administration if you have severe symptoms from Multiple Sclerosis that keeps you from working for at least 12 months or more. First, of course you will need to start the application process. You do that by applying for Social Security Disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits on SSA’s website.
Second, you will then need to submit your medical records to the SSA. The SSA will read your medical records to see if your M.S. symptoms meets their rules. Multiple Sclerosis is found under neurological listing 11.09. Listing 11.09 states the following:
11.09 MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS, characterized by A or B:
A. Disorganization of motor function in two extremities, resulting in an extreme limits in the ability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use the upper extremities.
B. Marked limitation in physical functioning, and in one of the following:
- Understanding, remembering, or applying information; or
- Interacting with others; or
- Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; or
- Adapting or managing oneself.
It is important to remember that you will need to prove not only that you have Multiple Sclerosis. But, you will also need to prove you have the disease to the level of severity under listing 11.09. You must have a treating doctor document your MS symptoms.
In order to document your MS, your doctor should write a report or letter to the SSA. In that letter, first, your doctor should discuss your MS test results. Second, your doctor should outline all of your MS symptoms. Finally, your doctor should state that you cannot work a full time job.
WHAT WILL YOUR MONTHLY SSDI BENEFIT AMOUNT BE FOR MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS?
The monthly SSD benefit amount that you receive for Multiple Sclerosis depends on the amount of money you made while you were working. It also depends upon the number of years you have worked and your age. Each person receives a different amount based on their earning history. If you want to learn more about the amount of your SSD benefit go here.
The SSA determine the monthly amount of money by using a special formula. This formula is the Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME). If you want to know more about the AIME, you can do so here at the Social Security’s website.
You can also make your own account online at the SSA’s website. At MySSA you can examine your work record. This will tell you the exact amount of the monthly benefit you will receive if you are paid benefits.
TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
The most common form of treatment for MS is medication. Your doctor may give you injections or pills to help control your symptoms. Treatment plans also include steroids to reduce inflammation, immune suppressants, physical therapy and surgery. Beta-interferon is a drug that helps to reduce relapse rates in people with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. It can also help to reduce the severity of attacks in people with progressive MS.
Another drug that some doctors give is Tysabri. Tysabri is a drug that was approved in 2004 by the FDA for use in people with MS who have not responded to other treatments or who have relapsing forms of MS. The most common side effects of Tysabri are nausea, fatigue, headache, and trouble sleeping. Other possible side effects are flu symptoms and numb hands and feet. Additional side effects include depression, mood changes, and suicidal thoughts.
SIDE-EFFECTS OF MS MEDICATIONS
It is also important for the doctor to document the side effects you may have from your treatment for M.S.. For example, some individuals with M.S., have treatment like those listed below:
- Injections: interferon beta-1a (Avonex, Rebif), interferon beta-1b (Betaseron, Extavia), glatiramer acetate (Copaxone, Glatopa), peginterferon beta-1a (Plegridy)
- Infusions: alemtuzumab (Lemtrada), mitoxantrone hydrochloride, natalizumab (Tysabri), ocrelizumab (Ocrevus)
These medications can cause side effects, such as extreme fatigue and nausea. For example, if you have an infusion, it may cause you to feel sick and you may be in bed for up to two days after the infusion. If you have side effects such as these, they impact your ability to work. Tell your doctor about your fatigue or other symptoms after your treatment. Your doctor should discuss your side effects in your medical records. Documenting the side effects of your medications is important in proving your illness to the SSA.
LIFESTYLE SUGGESTIONS TO HELP WITH YOUR MS
You should follow the advise of your doctor. But, medications may not be the only answer. As with any medical condition, taking care of your health will make your daily life better. Individuals with MS should make sure they:
Get enough rest: Make sure you keep a regular sleep schedule and make sure your bedroom is cool and dark. That will help you sleep. Also, make sure you are screen free two hours before bedtime.
Eat a healthy diet: Check with your neurologist before starting on any diet. However, it makes good sense to choose foods low in fats and high in fiber.
Exercise: Exercise will keep you healthy, even when you are dealing with MS symptoms. Work to build your muscles and keep yourself strong. Start with exercise like walking or swimming. Choose an activity that is easy for you to do, even if it is simply walking around the block.
Try your best to manage stress: Stress has been known to make MS symptoms worse. In order to handle stress, you can try yoga, reading, or writing in a journal. Other people spend time with friends or family. Whatever works for you, find an activity that helps you control your feelings of stress.
HOW YOUR DOCTOR CAN HELP AFTER YOUR MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS DIAGNOSIS
First, your doctor needs to state that your Multiple Sclerosis was found through medical testing. For example, you will have an MRI showing white matter lesions deep in the brain. Over time, you may have multiple MRI tests that show the white matter lesions are becoming worse. You may also have spinal tap testing for oligoclonal bands.
Second, your doctor should write about your physical and mental conditions. This can be done in a letter. However, if the description of your symptoms in the letter do not match with the progress notes, then the SSA may not accept them.
Third, your doctor should discuss how you are complaint with treatment. If you file for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, at the same time, you should apply for any private disability insurance benefits you may have through work.
Many individuals who suffer from MS also deal with side effects from their medications. If you are taking Tysabri, Mitoxantrone, Interferon, or other drugs, then you may have days where the medication side effects are worse than your MS symptoms.
If that is the case, make sure your doctor talks about your need to lie down during the day. Also, make sure your doctor writes about your need to take breaks or stay in bed after you take your medication. One of the main things your doctor can do to help the SSA understand your case is to document why you are unable to sustain work for 40 hours a week.
HELPFUL TIPS YOU CAN USE TO PROVE YOUR MS IS DISABLING
We can’t stress enough how much the SSA relies on your medical history in order to pay you benefits. Your medical records need to include your MS diagnosis, test results from an MRI and a spinal tap showing oligoclonal bands. Your records should also include ongoing records of treatment and medication, any hospital visits, and devices you use, such as a cane or walker. Read here about how to build medical record evidence.
MS can affect your ability to understand, remember, and apply information. Likewise, your ability to concentrate and sustain a steady work pace can get worse as your disease gets worse. Your ability to complete work related mental activities can be determined through a psychological evaluation. You can obtain one by paying for it. Additionally, it is possible to have the SSA send you for a consultative mental exam. The mental aspects of your disease are very important to your case.
Treating Doctor Statement:
SSA will have specific questions for your doctors that will help them understand the your MS symptoms. It is important your doctor writes about how your MS effects your ability to work. We can help you provide specific forms to your doctor for him or her to complete. These forms document your physical and mental conditions as if you were at work.
OTHER EVIDENCE OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS SYMPTOMS
Keep a Journal of Your MS Symptoms: Our clients keep a journal of their daily activities. The journal shows how your MS symptoms limit you throughout the day. In your journal, which can be kept on a calendar, document your different daily symptoms. For example, write down when you need to lie down during the day. You should write down how many hours you slept that day and why you needed to sleep. Was it due to medication side effects? Was it due to pain or simply fatigue due to MS?
You may also have bowel or bladder problems with MS. You should write down how often and how long you are in the bathroom during the day. Show this journal to your doctor. It is also possible to submit a well written journal to the judge at your SSA hearing.
Statements from Family and Friends: Submitting statements from family and friends at your SSA hearing is possible. However, make sure those statements talk about your MS symptoms and not other subjects. For example, a family member could write about how your MS causes trouble when you are walking, standing, or lifting. Likewise, a friend could write about how they have seen your MS cause problems with your ability to concentrate on tasks or remember instructions.
IS THERE A CURE FOR MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS?
Currently, there is no known cure for MS. However, as shown above in the treatment options section, there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
There are also many ongoing research efforts aimed at finding a cure for Multiple Sclerosis. Some areas of research include:
- Stem cell therapy: Scientists are exploring the use of stem cells to repair damage to the nervous system caused by MS. Stem cells can turn into different types of healthy cells and doctors hope that they can be used to replace damaged nerve cells.
- Immunotherapy: There is ongoing research on the use of immunotherapy to modify the immune system’s response to MS. This approach uses drugs or other therapies to suppress the immune system’s attacks on the nervous system.
- Neuroprotective therapy: Scientists are studying drugs and treatments that can protect nerve cells from damage or degeneration caused by MS.
- Gene therapy: There is research on the use of gene therapy to modify the expression of genes that are involved in the development of MS. Gene therapy involves modifying DNA to correct or alter the expression of specific genes.
- Repurposed drugs: Some scientists are studying existing drugs that are being used for other conditions, such as cancer or arthritis, to see if they could also be effective in treating MS.
These are just a few examples of the many types of research that are being pursued in the search for a cure for MS. While there is no cure yet, this research offers hope for new treatments that can help people with MS.
MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS RESOURCES IN UTAH, IDAHO & NEVADA
National Multiple Sclerosis Society Idaho-Nevada-Utah Chapter
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has a Chapter for people with Multiple Sclerosis in Utah, Idaho and Nevada. In these three states, the Idaho-Nevada-Utah Chapter helps people with MS and raises funds for research to find a cure. They also address the challenges of everyone who deals with MS.
The Idaho-Nevada-Utah Chapter works to improve the quality of life for people affected by MS. The also raise funds for critical MS research. They provide a wide variety of programs, activities, and services throughout the region to people with Multiple Sclerosis, their families and friends.
The National MS Society’s Partners in Multiple Sclerosis Care program connects you to local doctor and medical clinics that offer exceptional care in treating patients with MS. All of their partners, whether they are a doctor or social worker, have a positive relationship with the Society.
This website can connect you to a list of patient information, doctors, and other resources for people with MS. We recommend looking at the information on Partner in MS Care, which can be found on the National M.S. Society’s website.
CANNON DISABILITY CAN HELP WIN YOUR MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS DISABILITY BENEFITS
It can be difficult to prove that your Multiple Sclerosis symptoms prevent you from working. But, Cannon Disability Law can help you win your Social Security benefits. We are happy to answer your questions. And, we will help you file your application for SSDI and SSI benefits. Contacting us and talking to us about your case is free. We will not charge you to review your case for merit.
Likewise, we will not charge you an attorney fee unless we win your case. If we do not win your case, you will not pay an attorney fee. However, there are costs in every case that the client does pay. Typically, these costs are minimal. It is usually the cost of paying your doctor for a copy of your medical records.
Unfortunately, many doctors are now using large companies to copy medical records. Those companies charge high fees. We try to keep costs low for you. But, you need to help us by getting your records in person from your doctor. If the doctor uses a copy company, then it can cost a lot of money to get your records. Learn more here about how to get your medical records for free.
WHAT WE DO TO HELP YOU WIN SSDI & SSI BENEFITS
You do not need to try to win SSDI and SSI benefits for Multiple Sclerosis by yourself. We can help file your SSD application. Also, we can help you appeal every SSA denial. That way, you can focus on your health. For example, our attorneys and staff can:
- Send you the paperwork you need to become our client
- Help you file your application for SSD and SSI benefits
- Inform the SSA that they should automatically pay your benefits under the Compassionate Allowance Rules
- File and appeal if you receive an initial denial from Disability Determination Services
- Help you confirm your Consultative Examination
- Request a Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
- Prepare you to be a good witness at your SSA hearing
- Represent you at your hearing and question the vocational and medical witnesses
- Read more about vocational experts here
- Learn more about medical expert testimony here
- Request review of an SSA decision with the Appeals Council
- Request review of an Appeals Council denial in Federal Court
If you file your application for benefits online at Social Security’s website, then you have 6 months to complete the application. Once you submit your application online, the SSA sends you an application summary in the mail. You must sign it and mail it back.
Additionally, once you receive a denial, you have 60 days to file an appeal. You must also meet the time limit set by the SSA. If you do not, then you will have to start the process over again. That means you will lose any benefits you could receive on any prior application.
HIRE US FOR OUR YEARS OF LEGAL EXPERIENCE
In the past 30 years, we have won millions of dollars in SSDI and SSI benefits for our clients. You need to hire an attorney with the legal experience to win your case.
If you or a loved one is suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, you may be wondering whether the Social Security Administration (SSA) will approve your claim for SSD and SSI benefits. If so, call Cannon Disability. We are the only law firm helping SSD and SSI clients in Utah and Nevada with over 30 years of experience. For example, we are rated in the top three SSD lawyers in the state of Utah.
We also help clients in many other states. For example, we have clients in Las Vegas, Nevada. We are also rated in the top three SSD lawyers in the state of Nevada. Find out more about our Nevada legal experience here. We also have clients in Idaho, Colorado, and California.
CANNON DISABILITY CAN HELP YOU WIN M.S. BENEFITS
You also need an attorney with experience to represent you in court. Find out here what medical evidence you need to submit to win your disability hearing.
At Cannon Disability Law, we have won over 20,000 SSDI and SSI cases. We have the experience that you need to win your SSD and SSI benefits for your endocrine disorders. If you need a lawyer at your hearing, contact Cannon Disability Law. Put our experience to work for you.
If you want to learn more about our law firm, then read our About Us page. For instance, Andria Summers can help you with your Medicare plan. She has also won thousands of SSD cases. Dianna Cannon has been helping her clients win SSDI and SSI benefits for thirty years. Brett Bunkall also has years of legal experience helping people obtain their benefits.
We have the experience to win your case. Additionally, we believe we are the best legal team you can hire to help you with your claim. It is free to call and talk to us about your case. Hire the best law firm to help you apply for benefits. Also, remember to appeal your SSA denial within 60 days. Contact us today. We can help win your Multiple Sclerosis benefits.