Multiple Sclerosis and Social Security Disability Benefits

Multiple sclerosis has been in the news lately because of Jack Osbourne's recent diagnosis. Jack Osbourne, the son of Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne, was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 26. His diagnosis highlights the number of other people living in the United States with the disease, how they cope, and what benefits are available. If multiple sclerosis is sufficiently debilitating, people affected by it may be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits.

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, around 400,000 people in the U.S. have multiple sclerosis and nearly 2.1 million have been diagnosed worldwide. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. It is caused when the body's immune system attacks the protective covering that surrounds nerve cells, called the myelin sheath. The damage to the covering causes nerve signals to slow or stop.

The spark that causes the immune system to attack nerve cells is unknown but may be caused by a virus or gene defect, or both. As time passes, the damage to nerve cells can cause problems with motor movement, cognition and memory, eyesight, balance, weakness, tingling and numbness, tremor, sexual problems, and bladder and bowel issues. Any organ system can be affected, since nerves help every organ function. Though it can occur at any age, multiple sclerosis is often diagnosed between ages 20 and 40.

Multiple sclerosis is a recognized medical condition under the Social Security disability program, but whether a person diagnosed with MS qualifies for Social Security disability benefits depends on how the disease affects the individual's ability to work. A person is only eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits if he or she is not able to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. Unfortunately, Social Security does not provide benefits for short-term disability.

Today many people who live with multiple sclerosis are able to manage the symptoms of the disease through improved medications and are able to continue to work. Therefore it's important that an individual diagnosed with the condition not immediately quit their occupation. A person who has received a multiple sclerosis diagnosis should meet with a Social Security attorney to determine his or her eligibility to receive Social Security benefits under the program's definition of disability.