If you have multiple sclerosis (MS) and are unable to work due to an MS-related disability and/or other conditions, you might be entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. If you are considering applying, you have likely experienced some setbacks in trying to stay employed. The National MS Society has developed a guidebook to assist you in deciding whether applying for disability benefits is right for you and in navigating the complex application process.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes MS as a chronic illness or “impairment” that could cause disability severe enough to prevent you from working. If any of the following, or other common MS symptoms, prevents you from working, you might qualify for Social Security disability benefits:
- Difficulty with walking and other motor skills
- Difficulty seeing
- Difficulty concentrating or completing simple tasks
- Difficulty remembering
- Extreme fatigue, regardless of sleep
- Speech impairment
- Side effects of medication(s)
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal insurance program run by SSA. It is not a welfare program, because you pay in to the system through taxes withheld from your paycheck. SSDI provides cash benefits to replace some of the income you can no longer earn due to disability. You must have sufficient work history and meet disability criteria to be entitled to benefits. For assistance, call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visit www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a different program that provides cash benefits to assist people who are very poor, elderly, blind, and/or disabled who have limited means. You do not need to have a work history to qualify, but you must have very little or no income and resources. For more information on SSI, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi.
While SSI and SSDI provide different benefits, SSA uses the same disability determination process for both. You can even qualify for both at the same time. The National MS Society guidebook focuses primarily on the SSDI application process; if you think you might be entitled to SSI as well, the information provided in the guidebook could help.
Go to www.nationalmssociety.org/SSDI to download a copy of the Guidebook for Individuals with MS and to view worksheets and sample letters.
Click here for an informative Power Point presentation on Employment and SSI/SSDI.