Can You Get Disability Benefits For MS? (Updated for 2024)

What is MS?

MS or multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord in which the immune system attacks and disrupts the communication between the brain and the body. Put simply, Multiple Sclerosis causes the immune system to destroy the coatings of nerve channels, shorting out nerve signals and limiting the capacity of the spinal cord and the brain to correspond with each other. The cause of MS is unknown and there is no cure for MS. There are however treatments that someone with MS can take to help mitigate the effects of the disease that it takes on the body.

Is MS a Disability?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers MS to be a disability that can prevent an individual from working. You can get disability for MS if you meet both the medical criteria outlined by the SSA for their listing for Multiple Sclerosis in the Blue Book and if you have earned enough work credits from your previous work history. The Blue Book is the list of conditions that qualify for disability.

For the SSA to consider MS a disability, you will need to meet the SSA's Blue Book listing 11.09. It is important to have strong medical documentation supporting your case.

What Are The Symptoms of MS?

Common MS symptoms include: 

  • Numbness in the legs 
  • Loss of vision in one eye 
  • Loss of power in one arm
  • MS hug: squeezing sensation felt around the body

Other MS symptoms include: 

  • Severe fatigue that makes it difficult to work 
  • Inability to walk 
  • Slurred speech and other cognitive problems

If you are experiencing symptoms of MS, it is recommended that you seek medical attention. 

MS hug can stretch all around the chest or stomach, or it can be just on one side. The MS hug can affect people differently. 

If you begin to experience what you think to be MS hug and are noticing the other symptoms such as fatigue, numbness, difficulty walking, etc. you should immediately seek medical treatment. 

If your symptoms of MS are severe enough, that you think you might be out of work because of it, then you may want to consider applying for disability for MS. You may be able to earn Social Security disability.

Consult a neurologist to determine if symptoms are indicative of Multiple Sclerosis, but in many cases proving a definitive link can be difficult. Often, symptoms include:

  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • tremor
  • chronic pain
  • cognitive problems

A precise diagnosis of multiple sclerosis can be based on your medical records and neurological tests, and various specialized procedures including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), lumbar or spinal taps punctures, evoked potentials, and blood analysis can help to accurately detect Multiple Sclerosis. Diagnosing this disease early is extremely important since the progression of symptoms can be slowed significantly by treatment.

If you have Multiple Sclerosis (MS), you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

How to Get Approved for Disability Benefits with MS 

When applying for Social Security Disability benefits on the basis of Multiple Sclerosis, it is necessary to demonstrate to the state-run Disability Determination Services (DDS) that a claimant’s capacity to perform gainful work activity has been severely limited by the condition. The DDS will examine that you meet the Blue Book listing for MS.

Even if a claimant can provide strong medical evidence of disability based on MS, it is important to provide detailed information about the symptoms of the condition, particularly the limitations imposed on the day-to-day functioning of the patient.

Corroborating a neurologist's diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis with a long-term record of symptoms and impairments provided by a primary care physician will greatly strengthen a case for disability benefits. Medical evidence that will strengthen an MS disability case includes:

  • proof of demyelination from a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • spinal tap that shows increased myelin basic proteins
  • evidence of slowed, garbled, or halted nerve impulses from Evoked Potential Tests including VEP, BAEP'S, and SSEP'S

The medical factors listed in the Social Security Administration’s impairment criteria handbook, or “Blue Book,” that are used by Disability Determination Services to decide whether to award Social Security Disability benefits to individuals with Multiple Sclerosis include: 

  • Visual impairment; 
  • Mental impairment involving behavioral and psychological abnormalities manifested by the presence of certain mental disorders; 
  • Persistent motor function disorganization in the form of paralysis or paresis, ataxia, tremor, and sensory disturbances that may occur in different combinations; and 
  • Significant motor function fatigue with considerable muscle weakness particularly when performing repetitive activities. 

What Benefits Are You Entitled to with MS? 

Since the SSA acknowledges MS as a chronic condition or "impairment" capable of causing disability of a severity that renders an individual unable to work, there are two types of disability benefits that are attainable for people with MS. These two types of benefits are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both SSDI and SSI provide disability benefits in the form of monthly checks to recipients. 

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI is one of the SSA’s disability benefit programs that people with MS may be entitled to receive benefits from. In order to get SSDI, you must have a qualifying disability(s), be unable to work for at least 12 months, and have earned sufficient work credits. 

Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is the other disability program run by the SSA that people with MS may be entitled to receive benefits from. Similarly to SSDI, the SSI program provides recipients with monthly disability payments to help cover the cost of medical bills, living, etc. However, unlike SSDI, SSI is a needs-based program which means that applicants must meet strict income and resource criteria in order to qualify for assistance. 

What Are the Chances of Getting Disability Benefits for MS?

Your chances of getting disability benefits with MS are high if you have enough medical evidence to back up your claim that you can no longer work anymore because of your MS and you have enough work credits in order to qualify for disability.

Medical evidence is the key to getting awarded disability, so the more medical evidence you have when you send your disability application with MS, the better your chances of getting disability with MS.

If the medical evidence that you show the SSA cannot prove that, your medical evidence needs to show marked limitations in physical functioning in one of the following: 

  • Understanding 
  • Remembering 
  • Applying information Interacting with others concentrating 
  • Persisting 
  • Maintaining pace or adapting or managing oneself 

If you are able to back up your claim with medical evidence of your MS, the chances of getting disability are greatly increased.

Living with MS 

If you are able to qualify for Social Security disability with MS, you can still live a productive life with your disease.

There are many ways to help make your life easier living with MS and Social Security disability benefits can provide you with that much-needed income to help you live a productive life. 

One of the top tips for helping living with MS is to maintain a good diet and sleep schedule. Even though there is no diet for MS, if you eat foods that are low in fat and high in vitamins and fiber, that can help you gain more energy.

Since MS can affect your sleep, addressing the sleeping issues you have because of your MS is optimal for helping living with your disease. Other tips for living with MS include regular exercise and making your home more convenient for your MS. 

Regular exercise (e.g., resistance training, flexibility exercises, balance exercises) can improve one's cardiovascular health, ambulation, and fatigue. 

Finally, by making accommodations in your house, such as placing things in easy-to-reach areas and modifying your shower arrangement, you can help reduce the risk of your falls. You can also use the money you earn from Social Security disability to help make modifications and accommodations to your home.

Get a Free Case Evaluation for MS

Obtaining disability benefits on the basis of Multiple Sclerosis can be difficult, particularly for younger claimants. If you currently suffer from this disease and believe that you have a strong case for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), it is important that you fully understand the SSDI application and appeals process before you send in your initial applications. To see how much you could earn with disability benefits with MS, Use our disability calculator to see how much you could be able to earn in disability benefits. 

You may want to get help from a disability attorney in order to get disability benefits with MS. This Is especially the case if your claim has been denied initially. Be sure to look out for the signs that you will be denied for disability.

Your disability lawyer will be able to tell you what paperwork and medical evidence you need to submit in your appeal. Your disability lawyer will also be able to testify on your behalf to an ALJ judge in order to prove that your MS is so disabling that you are unable to work full-time because of it. Disability lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they are only paid if you win your MS disability claim.

In most cases, working closely with medical professionals, along with a qualified Social Security attorney or disability advocate, can greatly increase the efficiency with which a claimant’s rightful benefits are obtained.

Additional Resources

Find Out If I Qualify for Benefits!