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Multiple Sclerosis

Does Multiple Sclerosis Qualify Me for Social Security Disability?

Multiple sclerosis (MS), or demyelinating disease, is an immune-mediated disease that impacts the central nervous system. In individuals with MS, the immune system attacks the protective substance (myelin) in the brain and spinal cord resulting in scars. These scars prevent the nervous system from functioning properly.

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According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS impacts 2.1 million people worldwide. This disease is two to three times more common in women than it is in men and is primarily diagnosed in young people. In order to diagnose MS, physicians use medical imaging to look for scar tissue and damage on both the spinal cord and the brain. However, it is often difficult to diagnose MS in its early stages as the symptoms are not constant. Though much is known about the disease and its progression, very little is known about what causes MS.

There are both physical and mental symptoms associated with MS. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Numbness
  • Walking, Balance, and Coordination Problems
  • Bladder Dysfunction
  • Bowel Dysfunction
  • Vision Problems
  • Dizziness and Vertigo
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Pain
  • Cognitive Dysfunction
  • Emotional Changes
  • Depression
  • Spasticity (stiff or rigid muscles)

Other less common symptoms include speech disorders, swallowing problems, headache, hearing loss, seizures, tremor, respiration and breathing problems, and itching.

No two people have the exact same symptoms and progression of MS. However, there are four primary courses of MS that are used by medical professionals in their treatment of this disease:

  • Relapsing-Remitting: This is the most commonly diagnosed course of MS. It is characterized by attacks (periods of time where symptoms of MS are more prevalent and neurological function is worse) separated by distinct periods of remission where the individual?s condition improves significantly or they recover from the attack completely.
  • Primary-Progressive: This course of MS is rare and characterized by constantly worsening symptoms. Though individuals may experience temporary improvements or plateaus in the progression of their disease, there are no distinct periods of remission. Progression does not always occur at a steady pace.
  • Secondary-Progressive: This course is often seen in the later stages of multiple sclerosis in individuals initially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS. Though there may be some remissions or plateaus, neurological condition and symptoms are constantly and steadily worsening.
  • Progressive-Relapsing: This is the rarest course of MS and is characterized by a steadily worsening condition from the time of initial diagnosis. Though there are no periods of remission in this course, the individual may still experience attacks or distinct periods where symptoms are the most exacerbated.

If you’re diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and can’t work as a result, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. If a disability decision cannot be made on medical factors alone, your situation will be evaluated based on a variety of physical and/or mental limitations you may have that prevent you from working. These include:

  1. How well you can perform physical tasks such as walking, standing, lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, reaching, and handling objects; or
  2. How well you can perform mental tasks such as understanding, carrying out, and remembering instructions; responding appropriately to supervision and co-workers; and dealing with work pressures.

Improving Your Chances for Obtaining Benefits

Because a diagnosis of MS is partially based on the presence of certain symptoms, it is especially important for you to:

  1. Keep a detailed journal, including a calendar of notes about how you feel each day.
  2. Record any usual activities you could not do on any given day.
  3. Keep a detailed history of your current and past medications and any side effects you experience.
  4. See a doctor regularly and take the medication that he/she gives you so that your doctor can support your application for benefits.
  5. If possible, see a specialist, such as a neurologist, for a confirming diagnosis.
  6. Ask your doctor or other health care professional to track the course of your symptoms and to keep a record of any evidence of fatigue, depression, forgetfulness, dizziness, numbness or weakness, problems with walking or balance, and other symptoms you experience.
  7. Keep records of how your illness affected you on the job.

Helpful Links

National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Get In Touch

(503) 228-5222
Multiple Sclerosis

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Thanks & Praise


  • I had a complicated disability retirement that involved not only Social Security, but the Office of Personal Management.
    My lawyer was excellent. I have a fairly severe learning disability, and organization and paperwork are not my strong suit. She made sure I was organized and prepared, both with the paperwork and for the court appearance. I always felt respected, which is rare for someone with my condition when dealing with others.
    Disability client
  • I cannot express my gratitude
    and appreciation for the meticulous effort and successful case you put together on my behalf.  This has been an extremely difficult time for me.  You have helped by giving me the support and guidance toward a positive result.  Thank you, Melissa!
    Mary, Portland
  • Scott Sell and his team were excellent
    Scott Sell and his team were excellent in helping me win my disability benefits. I couldn't begin to negotiate the maze of paperwork that Social Security requires so that's why I hired Scott and his team to handle it for me. Everyone at the law firm are highly professional, they have a vast wealth of knowledge and resources, and what really matters to me is what kind and caring people they are. I was really impressed with how quickly I was awarded my benefits, it took far less time than I imagined and that was because I hired the right people to handle my case. Thanks to everyone at TCN & F and especially to Scott, Erin and Susan
    Debra, Portland
  • I’m sure things went as smooth
    as they did because of you being my lawyer. The man at the local SS office said that people have a lot of respect for you in the SS world. Thank you again so much.
    Pam, Salem, OR
  • Finding oneself applying for disability
    is an extremely difficult position to be in. I found myself at times very confused and overcome with emotion. However, from the first time I met her, Melissa treated me kindly, respectfully and all the while maintaining a very professional demeanor. I was never anything but 100 percent confident in her abilities to guide me through this difficult time. Now that this difficult endeavor has wound down, I am filled with a sense of renewed hope. Thanks to your wonderful team, I now feel that I have been given a ‘fresh start’ in life. Not a lot of folks are given that opportunity.
    Speaking of teamwork, my thank you would not be complete without mentioning your assistant, Erin Daniels. Erin was also very professional, very helpful and I never felt as if I was being talked down to. She deserves a great big thank you for her efforts also.
    I will always remain forever grateful to the great staff at Swanson, Thomas and Coon.
    Suzanne, NE Portland
  • Melissa,
    thank you so much for all of your hard work! I will forever be grateful for all that you did to help me prepare for the hearing, for being so kind, for always answering my calls and emails so quickly, and for always being so helpful! You really have no idea how much my husband and I appreciate you. Thanks again for everything,
    Rachael, Portland
  • Melissa is a trust worthy lawyer.
    We had a very hard case which had a low chance of winning, but we did win. Melissa is patient and honest. She takes the time to explain any information even it takes a couple of times to explain the same thing. I found Melissa to be very professional. This was the first time I have ever had to go before a judge and it was a little scary but Melissa helped us be calm. I believe Melissa knows what she is doing.
    Becky, Hillsboro
  • Dear Melissa,
    thanks very much for helping with my SSDI hearing. You were so kind and gracious as well as helpful to me. You restored my faith in lawyers. My lawyer for my car accident claim was rude and didn’t follow through as promised. You were exactly the opposite and made me feel respected and comfortable/relaxed. Thanks VERY much.
    Sue, Portland
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