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.


  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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