Can A Person Be Awarded Social Security Disability Benefits For Multiple Sclerosis?

Individuals who suffer from multiple sclerosis experience many difficulties due to their condition. At times, these difficulties are significant enough to prevent those individuals from working. There are essentially two ways that an individual can be approved for disability due to multiple sclerosis. Assuming the individual is not working over the earnings limit, a person with multiple sclerosis can be approved using Listing 11.09 or if the person’s residual functional capacity prevents competitive employment.

The Listings                                                                                                                                                                                        

Certain conditions are singled out, by law, by the Social Security Administration for special consideration. These conditions, if they manifest in specific, quantifiable, and medically documented ways, will result in medical approval for disability benefits if the sufferer in question is not working over the defined earnings limit. Multiple sclerosis is evaluated using Listing 11.09. The text is as follows:

11.09 Multiple sclerosis, characterized by A or B:

  1. Disorganization of motor function in two extremities (see 11.00D1), resulting in an extreme limitation (see 11.00D2) in the ability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use the upper extremities.

OR

  1. Marked limitation (see 11.00G2) in physical functioning (see 11.00G3a), and in one of the following:
  1. Understanding, remembering, or applying information (see 11.00G3b(i)); or
  2. Interacting with others (see 11.00G3b(ii)); or
  3. Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace (see 11.00G3b(iii)); or
  4. Adapting or managing oneself (see 11.00G3b(iv)).

While there are some terms used in the text of the Listing that are defined elsewhere, they are legal terms of art that can be best understood with the help of a Social Security Disability attorney. In a nutshell, meeting Part A of the Listing requires medical documentation that the individual in question either experiences significant difficulty arising from a seated position, standing and walking upright, or has limited use of his or her arms in specific, quantifiable terms.

Part B also uses specific terms of art, but focuses on the mental difficulties associated with multiple sclerosis. Documented, significant issues remembering and applying information, interacting with others, focusing, and managing the stress and change of work would result in meeting Part B of the listing. If the Social Security Administration finds that the requirements of Part A or B of the Listing are met, the individual is medically disabled per the rules.

Residual Functional Capacity

If the individual does not meet the requirements of Listing 11.09, it is still possible to be found disabled. The analysis continues as the Social Security Administration determines the individual’s residual functional capacity. This analysis attempts to quantify what an individual can do in terms of work activity based on any physical and mental impairments the individual has. With the help of vocational experts, the Social Security Administration will determine what, if any, work an individual is capable of. If a person’s limitations due to multiple sclerosis preclude competitive employment, they are medically disabled per Social Security’s rules.

Multiple sclerosis is a serious illness that requires careful evaluation and treatment by doctors. If an individual is considering applying for disability benefits due to multiple sclerosis, we strongly advise consultation with a Social Security Disability Attorney.

Written by Adam Kachelski

Adam Kachelski is a 2014 graduate of the University of Wisconsin School of Law. He lives and works in Cincinnati.

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Child Support and Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance

Some Social Security Disability applicants have child support obligations. Those obligations do not go away when an individual is forced to stop working due to his or her medical conditions. If those obligations are not paid on time, it is quite possible that the arrearages can add up over time while an individual fights for his or her disability benefits. If and when benefits are awarded, those benefits can be garnished depending on the program he or she is approved for.

There are two different disability programs. One, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is based on financial need. The other, Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (RSDI), is based on an individual’s work history and how much he or she paid into the system. By rule, SSI benefits cannot be garnished for any reason or by any entity. RSDI, though, may be garnished to pay past-due child support. This includes any backpay an individual receives, not just ongoing monthly benefits.

Those who receive RSDI often also get auxiliary benefits for their minor children. Those benefits are sent to the adult who has majority-custody of the children in question. These are not a substitute for child support obligations that must be paid.

In situations such as these it is prudent to consult an attorney for assistance in petitioning the court to lower your child support obligations. This will not reduce an individual’s past-due child support obligations, but may reduce your future obligations due to a significant change in his or her circumstances.

 

By Adam Kachelski

Written by Adam Kachelski

Adam Kachelski is a 2014 graduate of the University of Wisconsin School of Law. He lives and works in Cincinnati.

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Illiteracy and Social Security Disability

Illiteracy alone does not warrant a finding of disability, as a claimant must have medical conditions that impair his or her ability to work in the national economy. That said, illiteracy is a feature of the claimant’s education level, which is considered when determining the availability of any jobs, along with the claimant’s age and work history.

A claimant who cannot read or write simple messages (as defined in Section 404.1564 of the Code of Federal Regulations) is considered functionally illiterate. An illiterate 45-49 year-old person who is limited to sedentary work (jobs that are primarily performed seated) by his or her medical conditions with unskilled or no prior work history is considered disabled automatically by the Social Security Medical-Vocational Guidelines (see 201.17). A person with the same limitations younger than 45 is not disabled, again per Social Security’s rules.

As one gets older, the rules change in a claimant’s favor. An illiterate person age 50-54 limited to light work (jobs primarily performed standing and walking, with limited lifting and carrying) with unskilled or no prior work history is considered disabled, while a person younger than that with the same limitations is not disabled. Interestingly, after age 55 illiteracy is not a factor in determining disability per the Social Security Medical-Vocational guidelines, though logically illiteracy does not cease being a relevant consideration.

Even if the guidelines do not command a finding of disability, illiteracy is a relevant factor in a claimant’s disability case. The inability to effectively read and write will always limit a claimant’s job prospects, and coupled with the claimant’s medical restrictions can effectively preclude work in a competitive environment. Therefore, a Social Security Disability attorney can be invaluable, as he or she can prepare for close questioning of vocational experts who testify as to the availability of jobs at disability hearings.

Contact one of our attorneys at Hoglund, Chwialkowski, Mrozik, PLLC. at 855.513.4357 to find out more.

 

By Adam Kachelski

Written by Adam Kachelski

Adam Kachelski is a 2014 graduate of the University of Wisconsin School of Law. He lives and works in Cincinnati.

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Burdens of Proof

When applying for Social Security Disability, the Administration must use a five-step analysis to determine if a claimant is disabled. Going through the steps, if at any point the claimant does not meet a step, the analysis ends and the Administration will find that the claimant is not disabled. The steps are:

 

  1. Is the claimant engaging in substantial gainful activity (making more than $1,170 per month before taxes in 2017)? If the claimant is making more than the limit, he or she is not disabled.
  2. Does the claimant have a severe impairment (An impairment that materially limits the ability to perform work activities)? If not, the claimant is not disabled.
  3. Does the claimant meet or equal a listing due to his or her impairments (Listings outline specific impairments and certain objective findings that, if documented, result in a finding of disability)? If not, the analysis goes to the next step.
  4. Can the claimant perform his or her past relevant work (work done at substantial gainful activity for a long enough period to learn the skills involved in performing the work, done in the last 15 years)? If yes, he or she is not disabled.
  5. Can the claimant perform any other work, as outlined by Social Security’s rules and regulations? If yes, the claimant is not disabled.

 

The burden of proof is on the claimant for the first four steps of the analysis. If the claimant proves that he or she cannot do any past relevant work, the burden shifts to the Social Security Administration to determine if there are other jobs available. This becomes important at a hearing, as an administrative law judge at hearing will have a vocational expert present to testify as to the availability of jobs for a person matching the claimant’s residual functional capacity. If it is established that he or she cannot do past relevant work, the onus is on the judge to establish that there is other work available. If the judge does not question the vocational expert about the existence of other jobs, by definition the Administration has not proven that there are jobs available for the claimant.
These issues can become very esoteric. Consult a Social Security Disability attorney if you have any questions about the disability adjudication process.

Written by Adam Kachelski

Adam Kachelski is a 2014 graduate of the University of Wisconsin School of Law. He lives and works in Cincinnati.

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Reopening a prior Disability Claim

Often, Social Security Disability claimants have previously applied for benefits, unsuccessfully. In these situations, it is always a question as to whether the previous application can be reopened in a current claim. Many factors are involved in answering this question. Generally speaking, however, it must be said that reopening a final decision from an administrative law judge is an unlikely occurrence, as great weight is given to previous decisions absent clear evidence that the decision was incorrect. Often claimants continue to allege that they have been disabled since their previous application, which then presents the possibility of reopening that claim.

First, the current application must allege an onset date that involves the previous application period, otherwise there is no need to examine the previous application, as it is not at issue in the case unless the argument is made

Second, a prior claim must be related to the current claim. This means that a previous application for schizophrenia cannot be reopened in a claim alleging only degenerative disc disease. In other words, the conditions alleged in the previous application must be involved in the present application.

Third, the age of the claim is relevant. If the previous claim is less than a year old, either a Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) claim or a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim may be reopened at will by the Social Security Administration. If the claim is more than a year old, Social Security may reopen an SSI claim that is two years old or less if there is good cause. For DIB claims, any claim four years old or less may be reopened for good cause. “Good cause” generally means new evidence is available or that an egregious error occurred.

While reopening previous claims is possible, it generally is not likely. Consult with your Social Security Disability Attorney to determine if it is wise to attempt to reopen a previous claim.

 

By Adam Kachelski

Written by Adam Kachelski

Adam Kachelski is a 2014 graduate of the University of Wisconsin School of Law. He lives and works in Cincinnati.

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