Mulitple Sclerosis is a disease which causes neurological impairments due to the body’s own immune system attacking the myelin or insulating substance of the brain and spinal cords nerve cell communication fiber called axons.
Mulitple Sclerosis is a listed impairment for the purposes of Social Security Disablity which means that if the claimant has a verifiable diagnosis and meets the proper criteria regarding the impairing symptoms, disability benefits are to be awarded without further inquiry. This does not mean however that a mere diagnosis of the disease is sufficient to collect disability benefits, nor does it mean that all claimants being treated for this condition are automatically awarded benefits.
As multiple sclerosis is most often a progressive disease, an early diagnosis will not render a claimant automatically disabled because of the diagnosis. A typical examination for MS generally includes an MRI of the brain to establish the presence of lesions, or scars, on the tissue. The claimant must be able, through medical documentation, to show some form of involuntary movement (paralysis, tremors, sensory disturbances) which is frequently linked to the neurological system. Many times this can be shown by an inability to hold a pen or pencil or write legibly. It can be evidenced by an inability to type accurately because of an inability to properly control the hands and/or fingers. Sometimes it can be associated with a lack of balance or falling due to a neurological impairment related to the legs and feet.
A claimant may also support their disability claim by showing a visual or mental impairment, such as impairment of sight in general, an impairment of peripheral vision or a loss of cognitive abilities demonstrated by disorientation, memory impairment, hallucinations or delusions, changes in personality and mood and loss of impulse control. Visual impairments must be substantiated by testing by an optometrist. A loss of cognitive abilities may be supported by testimony from the claimant and close family and friends, but should be supported in medical records either by the claimant’s treating physician, neurologist or counselor, psychiatrist or psychologist.
Finally, a MS can be shown to be a disabling condition based on muscle fatigue. Fatigue is a not a symptom exclusive to MS, but the muscle weakness and fatigue in connection with other medical documentation and evidence can be sufficient to prevail. Fatigue related to MS should be demonstrable on examination and easily reproduced with repetitive activity. Additionally, muscle weakness is also an indicator that fatigue is a contributing, disabling factor with this condition. The weakness must show dysfunction in an area of the nervous system known to be involved with the MS process.
An individual with MS who is experiencing increasing fatigue, difficulty working, or has stopped working because of the condition should contact an attorney to discuss the possibility of benefits under Social Security Disability.