MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS AND WINNING DISABILITY BENEFITS
Multiple Sclerosis is an auto-immune disease that affects the central nervous system. When an individual suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, the disease damages the insulating 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. Also, other common symptoms are tremor, balance issues, and dizziness.
The symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis are different for every person. However, common symptoms are vision problems, tingling, and numbness in the face or extremities. Some people experience speech issues, sexual dysfunction, and bladder problems. Additionally, mental symptoms can include cognitive issues, such as forgetfulness. Also, you can experience concentration problems and mood swings. While Multiple Sclerosis symptoms can wax and wane, the disease does shorten your life expectancy.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
There are many symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. Though everyone experiences different physical and mental impairments, 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 typically 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 COMMON SYMPTOMS
Bowel and Bladder problems: You may have difficulty emptying your bladder or need to frequently urinate. 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 be depression, mood swings, and anxiety.
Memory problems: You may experience memory issues which 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 sensations 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/or the spinal cord. These lesions are white matter lesions or plaques. Another way to diagnosis 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 cerebral spinal fluid is tested for abnormal results; oligoclonal bands are a group of proteins that show inflammation of the central nervous system. The presence of these proteins may indicate a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.
HEALTH INSURANCE, MEDICAID & MEDICARE ISSUES FOR THOSE WITH 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 a specialist in Multiple Sclerosis. Hopefully, you have health insurance that will pay for treatment. If so, talk with your doctor before applying for SSDI.
Make sure you doctor will be supportive of your disability 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 disability. For example, you may need neuropsychological 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 eligible for SSI benefits. Medicaid and SSI begin the date of your application. However, Medicare benefits do not start with the SSD application date. There is a 29 month waiting period before Medicare benefits begin.
That 29 month waiting period begins from your alleged onset date of disability, not the date of your application. The 29 month waiting period includes a five month waiting period and a 2 year waiting period. 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 healthcare coverage may be a huge problem.
SSA’S DEFINITION OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
You can obtain disability benefits from the Social Security Administration if you have severe symptoms from Multiple Sclerosis. First, of course you will need to start the application process. Once you apply, you will need to submit your medical records to the SSA. As always, the SSA will first look at your medical records to see if your M.S. symptoms meets their listing requirements. Multiple Sclerosis is found under the 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 limitation 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 an objective diagnosis of 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 physician document your impairments from M.S.. For example, your doctor should discuss your tests and objective diagnosis, along with your disabling symptoms.
WHAT WILL YOUR MONTHLY SSD AMOUNT BE FOR MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS?
The monthly disability benefit amount that you can 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 calculation 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 earnings record. This will tell you the exact amount of your monthly benefit.
SIDE-EFFECTS OF M.S. 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 from the injections or infusions 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. If you have side-effects such as these, they can contribute to not being able to work. Tell your doctor about your side-effects. Your doctor should discuss your side-effects in your medical records. Documenting the side-effects of your medications is important to proving your disability to the SSA.
LIFESTYLE SUGGESTIONS YOU CAN TRY TO HELP WITH YOUR MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
You should follow your doctor’s recommendations, 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 M.S. 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, meditation, reading, or journaling. 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
Your doctor needs to state that your Multiple Sclerosis has been diagnosed through an objective test, like an MRI. You may also have testing for oligoclonal bands. Second, your doctor should write about your physical and mental limitations. 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 M.S. also deal with side-effects from their medications. If you are taking steroids, Tysabri, Mitoxantrone, Interferon, or other drugs, then you may have days where the side-effects of your medications are worse than your M.S. symptoms. If that is the case, make sure your doctor discusses your need to lie down during the day. Also, make sure the doctor discusses 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 your inability to sustain full-time work.
HELPFUL TIPS YOU CAN USE TO PROVE YOUR M.S. IS DISABLING
- Medical Records: We can’t stress enough how much the SSA relies on your medical history to find disability. Your medical records need to include your M.S. 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 prescribed assistive devices, such as a cane or walker.
M.S. can affect your ability to understand, remember, and apply information. Likewise, your ability to concentrate and sustain a steady work pace can deteriorate as your disease progresses. 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 examination. The mental aspects of your disease are very important to your case.
Treating Physician’s Statement:
SSA will have specific questions for your doctors that will help them understand the your MS symptoms. It is important that your doctor discusses how your M.S. 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 limitations as if you were at work.
OTHER EVIDENCE OF DISABLING MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
- Keep a Journal of Your MS Symptoms: Our clients keep a journal of their daily activities. The journal discusses how their MS symptoms limit them throughout the day. In your journal, which can be kept on a calendar, document your different 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, an infusion, or simply fatigue due to M.S.. Show this journal or calendar to your doctor. It is also possible to submit a well-kept journal to the disability judge at your hearing.
- Statements from Family and Friends: Submitting statements from family and friends at your disability hearing is possible. However, make sure those statements talk about your MS limitations and not other subjects.
RESOURCES IN UTAH, IDAHO & NEVADA FOR M.S.
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 mobilizes people and resources to fund research for a cure. They also address the challenges of everyone impacted by M.S.. The Idaho-Nevada-Utah Chapter works to improve the quality of life for people affected by MS and raise funds for critical MS research. They provide a wide variety of programs, fundraisers, 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 health care providers and medical facilities that demonstrate exceptional care and expertise in treating patients with MS. All of their partners, whether they are a neurologist 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 M.S.. 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 YOU WIN YOUR MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS DISABILITY CASE
It can be difficult to prove to the SSA that your Multiple Sclerosis symptoms prevent you from working. But, Cannon Disability Law can help you win your Social Security disability benefits. We are happy to answer your questions. And, we will help you file your application for disability benefits. Contacting us and talking to us about your case is free. We will not charge you for a consultation.
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 for a copy of your doctor’s medical records. Unfortunately, many doctors are now using large companies to copy medical records. Those companies charge exorbitant fees. We try to keep costs low for you. But, you need to help us by collecting your records in person. If the doctor uses a copy company, then it can cost a lot of money to get your records.
HIRE US FOR OUR YEARS OF EXPERIENCE
In the past 30 years, we have won millions of dollars in ongoing and past-due due disability benefits for our clients. You want to hire an attorney with the experience to win your case. Also, you need a guide to help you through the disability process. We have the experience to win your disability case. Additionally, we believe we are the best disability 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 disability firm to help you apply for benefits. Also, remember to appeal your SSA denial within 60 days. Contact us today. We can help.