The following post was written up by Molly Clarke, a writer for the Social Security Disability Help blog, and provides good information on how to get started in applying for benefits. There’s no denying that the process is long and complicated and, in the end, she encourages folks not to give up, “If your initial application is denied, do not panic. You can appeal the SSA’s decision. The key to being awarded benefits is to remain persistent in your efforts.”
If you’ve applied for SSD benefits and have tips for other MSers, we’d all love to hear from you.
Ciao for now,
Social Security Disability and Multiple Sclerosis, Molly Clarke, Social Security Disability Help blog
A diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can severely impact a person’s life. Because MS is a progressive disease, symptoms may not become limiting until later on in life. If you find that you can no longer work due to advanced MS symptoms, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.
The following article will provide you with a brief overview of the available benefit options and will prepare you to begin the application process.
Technical Eligibility for SSDI and SSI
The Social Security Administration (SSA)—the governing body of the disability benefit programs—offers two separate benefit options. These options include Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Each of these programs has its own set of technical eligibility requirements.
- SSDI provides benefits to disabled workers and their families. This program is funded by taxes that workers pay into the system. Therefore, technical eligibility for SSDI is based on employment history and the amount taxes an applicant has paid throughout his or her career. Learn more about specific eligibility requirements, here. (http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/ssdi/qualify-for-ssdi)
- SSI is a needs-based program that provides benefits to elderly or disabled individuals who earn very little income. To qualify for SSI, applicants cannot exceed very strict financial limitations put in place by the SSA. This program does not have any work or tax related requirements. Learn more about qualifying for SSI, here. (http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/ssi/qualify-for-ssi)
In some cases, individuals may qualify for benefits from both programs.
The MS Blue Book Listing
In addition to the previously mentioned technical requirements, applicants must also meet specific medical requirements to qualify for SSD benefits. The most basic of these requirements is to meet the SSA’s definition of disability. The SSA considers a person to be disabled if they have a mental or physical condition that prevents them from performing any type of work for at least 12 months.
After determining whether or not you meet the definition of disability, the SSA will look for specific medical symptoms. These criteria are listed in the SSA’s manual of disabling conditions, known as the blue book. Under each blue book listing you will find a list of specific, measurable symptoms that you must have in order to qualify.
You can find MS listed in the SSA’s blue book under section 11.09. According to this section you will need to meet the following criteria in order to qualify for benefits with MS:
- A marked loss of vision that cannot be corrected
- A mental impairment (such as memory loss or mood disturbance)
- Muscle weakness and fatigue
- Difficulty walking, standing, or using your hands
- Partial paralysis of your limbs, involuntary movements, or tremors
Read the entire blue book listing, here. (http://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/11.00-Neurological-Adult.htm#11_09)
If you do not meet the specific blue book listing for MS but are still unable to work, you may qualify under something called a Medical Vocational Allowance. This means that the SSA will evaluate your application and look for evidence that your symptoms prevent you from carrying out typical work activities. The SSA will also look at your age and previous training to determine whether or not it’s possible for you to be trained to learn a new occupation.
Social Security Disability Application Process
A diagnosis of MS will not automatically qualify you for SSD benefits. The SSA requires specific medical evidence that proves the extent of your symptoms and supports your claim. This may include documentation of your diagnosis, hospitalizations, medical appointments, treatments you have received, treatments you are currently receiving, and a personal statement from your doctor. In this statement, your doctor should provide details about your symptoms and how they affect your ability to perform daily activities. It is important that you collect this information prior to submitting your application.
Once you are ready to apply, you can do so online or in person at your local Social Security office. You should realize that this process can take anywhere from several months to a year to a complete. If your initial application is denied, do not panic. You can appeal the SSA’s decision. The key to being awarded benefits is to remain persistent in your efforts.
After being awarded benefits, you will be able to focus on your health rather than your financial struggles. To learn more, visit Social Security Disability Help (http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/disabling-conditions/multiple-sclerosis-and-social-security-disability) or contact Molly Clarke at firstname.lastname@example.org.