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Social Security Disability Definitions

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Is multiple sclerosis considered a disability by Social Security?

How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits

Multiple sclerosis is considered to be a disability by Social Security; however a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis does not necessarily mean an allowance or approval for disability benefits. Some individuals with multiple sclerosis have no or very minimal functional limitations meaning that some individuals with MS are able to continue working for quite some time after their diagnosis.

At the same time, however, many patients with MS find the disease to be completely debililtating and the progression of their illness and the functional limitations that come with it completely remove their ability to A) engage in their current or past work and B) engage in some type of other work.

It is for this very reason that that Social Security does not award disability benefits on the basis of being diagnosed with a condition, but, rather, looks at an individualís residual functional capacity (what they are able to do in spite of the limitations of their disabling condition) and their ability to perform substantial gainful activity.

Individuals who have multiple sclerosis are evaluated under section 11, the neurlogical section of the Social Security Disability List of Impairments, referred to, simply, as the listings. MS is specifically given consideration under impairment listing 11.09.

The listing outlines the qualifications criteria needed to satisfy the severity requirement of the listing if an individual has motor function limitations or disorganization. It lists the criteria necessary for a medical approval on the basis of visual or mental impairments caused by multiple sclerosis. And, finally, it provides the criteria required for an approval based upon muscle weakness for individuals who do not have muscle weakness or motor function disorganization when they are at rest, but develop muscle weakness when they are fatigued from activity.

As with other Social Security disability impairment listings, it is difficult to satisfy the severity requirements of the multiple sclerosis impairment listing. However, individuals with MS who do not qualify for disability benefits on the basis of the listing can still be approved for disability benefits if they have severe functional limitations that prevent them from performing substantial work activity (SGA).

Individuals with significant functional difficulties may be medically approved for disability benefits through a medical vocational allowance. In this type of approval, Social Security considers a personís age, residual functional capacity, education, and their ability to do their past work or other work (considering their residual functional capacity) when making the disability determination. If an individualís MS prevents them from performing any past work or any other kind of work, they may be approved for disability benefits.

Additional information: Social Security Disability, SSI, and MS

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions

Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The Disability Decision Process and What gets taken into Consideration | Getting Denied for Disability Benefits | Questions about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | Social Security Disability Hearings | Social Security Medical Examinations | Social Security SSI Doctors | Social Security Disability Representation | Social Security Disability SSI Reviews