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How Does Social Security Evaluate Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a devastating disease that impacts approximately 250,000 to 350,000 in the United States. Social Security recognizes that MS can be a disabling impairment and will award benefits to those with the diagnosis. Just having a diagnosis of MS, however, is not enough to be approved for benefits. You must also show that your MS causes severe limitations that interfere with your ability to work.

Social Security evaluates MS claims in two ways. First, they evaluate whether or not your condition “Meets a Listing.” If your MS does not meet a listing, Social Security determines whether, considering your limitations, you can perform your past work or other work activity.

1. Meeting a Listing- Social Security has included several diagnoses in the Listings. You are considered disabled if you meet the criteria set out for your impairment. For MS, the applicable Listing is 11.09. Listing 11.09 requires that an individual have the following:

A. Disorganization of motor function in two extremities resulting in an extreme limitation in the ability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use the upper extremities.


B. Marked limitation in physical functioning, and in one of the following:

  • Understanding, remembering, or applying information; or
  • Interacting with others; or
  • Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; or
  • Adapting or managing oneself.

It is very important to understand that the described limitations must be medically documented. It is not enough for you to allege that you have disorganization of motor function. The kind of disorganization described by the Listings must be documented by your physician on multiple examinations.

2. Unable to perform your past work or other work- If you do not meet the requirements for the Listing, Social Security evaluates whether you are unable to perform work activity. First, Social Security determines whether your limitations prevent you from performing the kind of work you did in the past. If you are not able to perform the work you did in the past, Social Security determines whether you are able to perform other work activity. In making this determination Social Security considers your age, education, and past work experience.

In addition to considering how your walking, standing, and lifting limitations impact your ability to work, Social Security considers subjective factors such as pain and fatigue. Fatigue can be a major limitation for many individuals with MS. If, as a result of fatigue, you are unable to perform work on a full time basis, you are disabled under Social Security regulations. In making this determination Social Security considers your medical records, your written statements, and your testimony at the hearing. As such, it is important that you and your doctors document your fatigue. Portnoy Disability can assist you in doing this and can provide answers to any additional questions about how Social Security evaluates MS claims.

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