February 21, 2020

Multiple Sclerosis and Social Security Disability

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease that involves an immune system attack against the central nervous system, affecting the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves.  While the exact cause of MS remains unknown, many scientists understand multiple sclerosis to be an immune-mediated disease that may be triggered or exacerbated by environmental factors.1

Among the many symptoms of MS, some of the most common ones include: weakness in the arms or legs, concentration and coordination difficulties, loss of balance, depression, speech impairments, and numbness or tingling in the face, arms, or legs.


The Social Security Disability Listing of Impairments classifies MS as a neurological disorder.  In order to qualify for disability, those suffering from MS must meet the requirements of Social Security’s disability listing for MS OR be able to clearly prove MS has limited functioning capacity to a point where the patient can no longer work.

If you suffer from MS and are thinking about applying for disability benefits, there are several factors to consider:

First, while MS can be an extremely debilitating and life disrupting disease, it may be episodic in nature and thus may not produce severe symptoms at all times and remissions may last months during which time you may be able to function in a work environment.  While Social Security judges do recognize the chronic nature of MS, these judges are also under a great deal of pressure from their supervisors in Washington who are facing deficits in the Social Security trust funds.

That said, a formal, written medical diagnosis of MS can greatly help your case.  To be considered for disability, Social Security requires proof of MS in the form of objective testing.  The most common test used to diagnose MS is the magnetic resonance test, or MRI.  Other tests that may be used to diagnose MS spinal taps, electroencephalograph (EEG), computerized axial tomography (CT scans), x-rays, and evoked potentials (exposes the individual to various stimuli).

MS claimants can argue for disability based on a “meet a listing” argument or under a “functional capacity” argument.  The listing, which may be found at http://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/11.00-Neurological-Adult.htm#11_09, requires a severe level of symptoms characteristic of more advanced cases of multiple sclerosis.

If you do not meet a listing, you can still win using a functional capacity argument where SSA will evaluate your condition and assess whether your symptoms, in combination with medication side effects and any other medical issues you may have prevent you from reliably performing any type of job.  The key term here is ANY.  Regardless of your occupation before the onset of your MS symptoms, if Social Security finds you can perform simple, entry-level type of work, qualifying for disability benefits will be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

If you suffer from MS and would like more information on applying for social security disability benefits, please use the case inquiry form on this page to request a confidential evaluation.  We would be happy to discuss your case with you.