Is Multiple Sclerosis a Disability? MS Eligibility Requirements
December 7, 2023 · 5 min read
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If you have multiple sclerosis or MS, you might qualify for disability benefits if your condition is severe enough that it prevents you from holding a job. Of all workers who received disability benefits in 2021, 36% qualified due to a disease of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue, which is how the Social Security Administration (SSA) categorizes multiple sclerosis. This marks the largest percentage of beneficiaries out of any diagnostic group.
But even though musculoskeletal disorders are the most common type of condition to qualify, it still isn't easy to secure Social Security disability benefits.
To help make the process easier to navigate, we'll walk you through the qualifications and steps for applying for disability benefits.
What is multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis, known as MS for short, is a chronic disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the protective covering of nerves. This autoimmune disease can impact the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, nearly one million people in the United States live with MS.
Common multiple sclerosis symptoms
Symptoms can vary from patient to patient, but common symptoms of multiple sclerosis can include:
Challenges walking, standing, or balancing
Cognitive issues, affecting areas like memory, concentration, or judgment
Lack of coordination or muscle weakness
Vision impairment or loss
4 types of multiple sclerosis
There are four different types of multiple sclerosis:
Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS): This type of MS refers to a single episode of neurologic symptoms that lasts for 24 hours and is caused by inflammation and demyelination in the central nervous system.
Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS): The most common type of MS, relapsing-remitting MS involves periods of neurologic symptoms followed by remission or even a partial or complete recovery.
Primary progressive MS (PPMS): With primary progressive MS, there may still be periods of remission between flare-ups, but neurologic function continues to get worse over time.
Secondary progressive MS (SPMS): Considered the second phase of RRMS, this type of MS initially mirrors that pattern of periods of flare-ups followed by periods of recovery. However, there is a more steady decline in neurologic function and a greater accumulation of disability over time.
Is multiple sclerosis a disability?
Yes, multiple sclerosis is a disability according to the Social Security Administration. If you have MS, your condition could qualify for disability benefits if you are unable to work because of your symptoms. Multiple sclerosis is listed in the SSA Blue Book as a qualifying condition under central nervous system diseases (Section 11.09). The condition can also qualify as a disability under the categories of special senses and speech and mental disorders.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also considers multiple sclerosis as a disability. This federal law prohibits discrimination against people with impairments and medical conditions that substantially limit major life activities.
Yes, you can get disability benefits for multiple sclerosis if you are unable to work due to your condition. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 40% of MS patients in the U.S. are on disability. To qualify for disability benefits, however, you must meet strict criteria outlined by the SSA and provide adequate medical documentation of your condition.
Even if your multiple sclerosis does seriously limit your ability to work, it can be easier to qualify for benefits if you apply with more than one condition. Here are some common health conditions affecting those with MS:
Criteria for getting disability with multiple sclerosis
To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, your medical records must demonstrate your multiple sclerosis prevents you from being able to work and perform daily functions. When evaluating your MS, the SSA will consider the following:
How aggressive your MS is, and whether it's progressive or has periods of remission
If your MS has led to secondary impairments or symptoms
The signs and symptoms of your MS
Whether you have limitations in physical or mental functioning due to your MS
Whether your MS has caused visual impairment
To receive benefits due to MS, you will need to have either:
Disorganized motor functioning in two extremities that extremely limits your ability to stand up when seated, use your upper extremities or maintain your balance while walking or standing
Marked limitations in physical functioning, such as difficulties related to standing, balancing, walking, or using two extremities, as well as marked limitations in one of the following areas of cognitive functioning:
Adapting to situations and demands or appropriately managing oneself
Concentrating, completing tasks, or maintaining an expected pace without breaks
Interacting with others
Understanding, remembering, or applying information
7 Questions to ask yourself before applying
Several questions can indicate how likely your MS is to qualify for disability. If you can answer “yes” to all or most of the following questions, then your multiple sclerosis has a good chance to qualify:
Do you deal with persistent motor function disorganization, such as paralysis or paresis, ataxia, tremors, and sensory disturbances?
Do you experience fatigue, dizziness, tingling, imbalance, numbness, or tremors?
Do you experience mental impairment that manifests as certain mental disorders?
Do you have an aggressive form of MS?
Do you have significant motor function fatigue with considerable muscle weakness, particularly when performing repetitive activities?
Do you experience visual impairment due to your MS?
If you have relapsing or remitting MS, are your episodes fairly frequent and long-lasting?
Ready to get benefits today?
My multiple sclerosis meets the criteria. Now what?
If you're uncertain whether your MS will meet the criteria, it's helpful to consider your likelihood of qualifying before you get into the process of applying. Here's some general guidance to take into consideration to help you determine if applying should be the next step:
Apply now if:
You've been diagnosed with and received treatment for multiple sclerosis.
Your symptoms prevent you from working and persist even with treatment.
If you're uncertain and would like some advice about the application process, take the Atticus quiz. A member of our team will reach out to learn more information about your disability case. We can also match you with a qualified disability lawyer to help you every step of the way, at no upfront cost.
What type of benefits should I apply for?
The Social Security Administration administers two disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both benefits programs offer financial assistance and health insurance coverage for people unable to work due to a disability, but they target different populations.
SSDI is for people who have worked and paid taxes for years, including at least five of the previous 10 years. SSI, on the other hand, is needs-based and assists people with a limited work history and low income.
How much is a disability check for multiple sclerosis?
On average, people who get disability benefits for multiple sclerosis get monthly checks of $1,427.22. You may receive more or less for your MS. In 2024, the maximum amount you can receive for your multiple sclerosis is $3,822 per month for SSDI and $943 per month for SSI.
These maximums apply regardless of which condition ends up qualifying you for Social Security disability benefits or how many conditions you use to qualify. For SSDI, the amount depends on your work history, and SSI payment amounts depend on your assets and income sources.
What if my multiple sclerosis doesn’t meet the criteria?
After reviewing the criteria for MS, you might realize your odds of qualifying aren't great. You can still apply — just know you must demonstrate through medical documentation that your MS prevents you from working.
Even those with severe multiple sclerosis may find the process of applying and qualifying to be challenging. Just 20% of applicants win disability benefits their first time applying. But if you appeal the decision, the odds of approval go up — the chances of winning a disability appeal are about 1 in 2.
Get help with your disability application
To see if you qualify for benefits, take our 2-minute disability quiz. A member of our team will follow up to learn more about your condition and can offer advice at no cost. Atticus can also match you with a qualified disability attorney to assist with your application.
As you navigate the application process, if you need near-term financial or legal assistance, check out our resources for people with disabilities.
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