Disability Benefits for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the protective covering of the nerve cells. The damage inflicted typically results in communication disturbance between the brain and the rest of the body. Currently there is no cure for multiple sclerosis but treatment can help manage symptoms as well as assist in recovery after attacks. MS is the most common autoimmune disorder of the central nervous system.

Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

The symptoms of MS vary between individuals depending on the nerves that are affected. Most people with MS experience autonomic, visual, motor, and/or sensory problems. After an attack, symptoms usually will improve but may resurface later on. Certain symptoms may disappear while other ones will persist for long periods of time and could potentially be permanent. The most common symptoms are listed below.

  • Pain
  • Numbness and weakness
  • Partial or complete loss of vision
  • Prolonged double vision
  • Muscle spasms
  • Abnormal gait
  • Lack of coordination
  • Tingling (pins and needles)
  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Paralysis
  • Bladder and bowel complications
  • Sexual dysfunction

The symptoms typically occur in two different patterns. Episodic symptoms (also known as symptomatic attacks, relapses or flare-ups) occur suddenly without warning at high severity and then tend to improve with time after manifesting. Other symptoms tend to surface and gradually get worse over time, without going through periods of recovery. Multiple sclerosis in many cases may cause the development of other long-term disabilities such as epilepsy, depression, and mood disorders.

Qualifying for Disability with Multiple Sclerosis

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will evaluate an American filing a claim for disability benefits for his or her multiple sclerosis under the listing 11.09 Multiple Sclerosis of section 11.00 Neurological Disorders of the Blue Book. Listing 11.09 also refers to several other listings that an individual with MS could potentially qualify under depending on their debilitating symptoms.

11.09 Multiple Sclerosis

Applicant must have one of the following with the proper acceptable medical documentation:

A.) Disorganization of motor function as described in 11.04B – significant and consistent disorganization of motor function in two extremities causing continuous disturbance of gross and dexterous movements, or gait and station (walking and posture).


B.) Visual or mental impairment as described under the criteria of the following listings:

2.02 Loss of Central Visual Acuity

2.03 Contraction of the visual field in the better eye

2.04 Loss of visual efficiency or visual impairment in the better eye

12.02 Organic Mental Disorders


C.) Significant, reproducible fatigue of motor function with substantial muscle weakness on repetitive activity demonstrated on physical examination resulting from neurological dysfunction in regions of the central nervous system known to be pathologically involved by the multiple sclerosis process.

Ability to Work and Multiple Sclerosis

Several symptoms of multiple sclerosis are severe enough to stop someone from being able to work in the labor market. If an individual is able to work full-time with MS without any complications, he or she will not qualify for disability benefits. This is because the SSA’s definition of “disability” states that the condition must be severe enough to prevent an individual from engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA) or in other words, earning more than $1,130 per month in income. If an applicant is unable to earn SGA due to their MS, he or she may qualify for disability benefits.

Due to the wide variety of symptoms caused by multiple sclerosis, people diagnosed with MS may not meet any of the listings described above but is not capable of working due to the severe symptoms. In these cases, the SSA will evaluate the person’s ability to work a job that requires little to no education or training to perform (such as being a greeter at a store entrance). If the SSA finds that the individual is incapable of performing unskilled work, he or she will most likely will become approved as long as they meet the technical requirements.


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