Multiple Sclerosis and Disability Insurance: A Claimant’s Guide
A multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis leads to a lot of questions, and you’re likely hearing conflicting information about your chances of receiving long-term disability (LTD) benefits. Keep reading to learn more about LTD benefits for MS, why this process is so complicated, and how you can strengthen your claim.
What Is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system that causes your immune system to attack your myelin, a fatty substance that covers and protects your nerves. When myelin is lost or damaged, plaque or scarring builds up on the nerves, making it more difficult to transmit impulses to-and-from the brain. Sometimes called demyelination, this process leads to MS symptoms, including:
- Weakness in your limbs
- Numbness and tingling
- Unsteadiness and balance problems
- Blurred and double vision
- Word-finding and speech difficulties
- Attention and concentration deficits
- Cognitive issues
Many people with multiple sclerosis also struggle with depression and anxiety, and suicide rates are significantly higher among individuals with MS. In fact, one study reported that people with MS are up to 7.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.
Multiple sclerosis symptoms vary from person to person. Some people experience a relapsing-remitting form of multiple sclerosis in which their symptoms plateau for a period of time and may even go away. Others experience progressive worsening of their symptoms.
While there is no known cure for MS, your neurologist will probably suggest medications and treatment that can help control the disease’s symptoms. Today, two-thirds of MS patients are able to walk ten years after their initial diagnosis, although some need a cane or walker. Most people with MS have a normal lifespan, and the disease itself is not fatal.
Can I Get Long-Term Disease for Multiple Sclerosis?
Like many complicated diseases, you can get long-term disability benefits for MS. However, there are people with multiple sclerosis that continue to work for extended periods of time after their diagnosis. To determine your long-term disability eligibility, you’ll need to carefully evaluate your LTD policy’s terms and conditions — as well as your symptoms, limitations, and other factors.
To assess your eligibility, you should consider:
- Whether the policy includes an “any occupation” or “own occupation” definition of disability
- How your symptoms impact your daily activity — both mentally and physically
- The side effects you’ve experienced from your prescribed medication (if any)
- Any work restrictions that your doctor has suggested
However, there are some common situations that can complicate an LTD claim for MS. First, it takes time to diagnose multiple sclerosis. Many people wait years and suffer through multiple “differential” diagnoses before they finally get their MS diagnosis. Others are stuck in limbo with “possible MS” because their test studies and scans are inconclusive. Insurance adjusters are skeptical of developing diagnoses and tend to deny them.
RELATED ARTICLE: What Conditions Automatically Qualify You as Disabled?
Second, insurance adjusters sometimes have a hard time understanding relapsing-remitting MS. When your symptoms aren’t progressing, your doctors may write that your disease is “stable” and that you’re “doing well.” And while stable does not mean symptom-free, an adjuster might use this status against you to diminish the severity of your disease and daily struggles.
How Can I Improve My Long-Term Disability Claim for Multiple Sclerosis?
Every MS disability claim is different and deserves its own personalized evaluation. You should always consult with a lawyer during your long-term disability claim, but there are also things you can do on your own to strengthen your claim.
Don’t Minimize Your Symptoms
Too frequently, we meet with MS (and other) patients who aren’t completely honest with their doctors. They’re not exaggerating their symptoms in the hopes of getting an LTD payout; they just don’t want to be seen as whiny, weak, or a burden, so they keep quiet about the severity of their disease.
If you have problems doing your daily tasks or notice an increase in symptoms, no matter how mild, it’s best to mention this at your doctors’ appointments. If you keep experiencing the symptom or issue, keep mentioning it at follow-up appointments. This information will help your doctors track the progression of your MS and identify therapies and treatments that may help. And when the LTD insurance adjuster reviews your medical records, they’ll get an accurate picture of your limitations.
RELATED ARTICLE: Disability Claim Tips
Don’t Quit Taking Medication Without a Doctor’s Consent
We get it. Many of the medications for multiple sclerosis, especially the immunosuppressive ones, have serious side effects. You may hate the flu-like symptoms that your medications cause and the frequent injections. However, you should never stop taking your medications without a doctor’s permission.
Some medications can cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms if they’re stopped cold turkey. Additionally, if you decide to stop your meds without talking to your doctor, your insurance company might consider this noncompliance with medical treatment and deny your claim.
Talk to a Lawyer Who Understands LTD and MS
Long-term disability applications and appeals involving multiple sclerosis are complicated. Rather than muddle through your claim, medical records, and vocational analysis, it’s best to consult with a lawyer who understands your disease and the LTD claims process.
An experienced MS disability lawyer may help you build a stronger case for benefits, highlighting the challenges you face, educating the claims adjuster, and providing new insight from experts.
RELATED ARTICLE: Building a Comprehensive Application for Disability Benefits
Bryant Legal Group Fights for People with Multiple Sclerosis
If you or a loved one have questions about multiple sclerosis and long-term disability, contact Bryant Legal Group. Our respected lawyers have decades of experience handling disability claims involving MS and other progressive diseases, and we’re here to you understand your legal options.
Depression (n.d.) Multiple sclerosis FAQs: Discover more about multiple sclerosis (n.d). National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Retrieved from https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/MS-Symptoms/Depression
Multiple sclerosis FAQs: Discover more about multiple sclerosis (n.d). National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Retrieved from https://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS/MS-FAQ-s#question-Does-MS-always-cause-paralysis
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.