Multiple Sclerosis and Social Security Disability

Claims for Social Security Disability benefits are often difficult to prove under the very strict Social Security rules. A diagnosis alone does not necessarily mean that the disorder as manifested in any particular individual will meet or equal Section 11.09 of the Listings of Impairments and will result in an award of benefits. Whether Social Security will award benefits depends on the strength of the claimant’s medical evidence to support symptoms of physical and/or mental impairments. Therefore, evaluation of MS and its symptoms must be made on an individual case-by-case basis.

Diagnosis of MS most often occurs to more women than men and under the age of 50. As a “younger individual” under the Social Security Rules, a claimant is required to prove by credible medical evidence that she or he is not capable of performing a wide range of sedentary or sit-down work. There are a number of severe symptoms that can limit a person’s ability to perform such work. The severity of symptoms, including: fatigue, pain, lack of concentration, inability to maintain persistence or pace, physical weakness, mental confusion, impaired cognition, and other symptoms, most often in combination, can lead to a favorable decision. However, a claim cannot be maintained on the basis of fatigue alone. An individual must demonstrate some objective ongoing neurological deficits. Clinical and laboratory data and a well-documented medical history must establish the severity of symptoms and how these affect an individual’s capacity for work. Consideration is given to the course of the disease and periods of exacerbation and remission. Social Security looks at the frequency of intermittent periods of exacerbation, including the severity of symptoms, as well as the duration and nature of periods of improvement. The intermittent periods of improvement can result in the claimant’s recovering the capacity to work. However, an individual who has had two or more severe exacerbations in a year, which prevent any work for more than one month, would be found to have an impairment that meets the Listing.

Maintaining a strong relationship with a treating specialist over time will go a long way towards substantiating the disability claim. A claimant may want to ascertain the willingness of his or her treating physician to complete relevant evaluation forms supplied by an attorney. If supportive, these can be submitted to Social Security as part of the disability claim. In addition, statements from family or friends in close contact with the claimant may be helpful. An experienced Social Security Disability attorney is in the best position to assist in collecting and producing evidence to substantiate the claim.

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