Newly Diagnosed: What You Need To Know
A new diagnosis of MS can be overwhelming and come with a myriad of questions.
Most people want to continue working and are able to do so, but often are not aware of the resources available to ensure that they are reasonably accommodated. Whether you need an accommodation to adequately perform your job or you need time off for treatment, it’s important to understand the various laws and protections that are available to help you continue to work. The following resources are available to help answer some frequently asked questions about your employment rights as a person living with MS.
Know Your Rights
This is an easy to read document in a Q & A format which contains information on employment, SSDI, family law, insurance, and more. It provides resources in each chapter, form letters and helpful guides for navigating legal difficulties.
Know Your Rights: A Legal Guide for People Living with Multiple Sclerosis Also, check out the Legal Resources section of our website.
Disclosure is one of the biggest issues people living with MS face. Do I tell? If so, who do I tell, what do I tell and when? There are no easy answers to these questions; however, the following tools are designed to walk you through the pros and cons of disclosure to assist you with exploring all the issues when making this important decision. For information and resources on this topic, check out the disclosure section of our website.
If you are having difficulty performing your job and need assistance, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you have the right to request a reasonable accommodation. The Job Accommodation Network has an accommodation guide and an outline of how you would write a letter to make such a request. They also have a listing of various accommodations specific to individuals with MS. For additional information and resources check out the accommodations section of our website.
JAN Accommodation Guide
Accommodation Ideas for Individuals with MS
There are various ways to obtain funding for assistive technology and accommodations. The following resource can help you find the one that is best for you.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law that protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace. You can request leave or accommodations under the ADA and if approved your job is protected.
For general ADA information, answers to specific technical questions, free ADA materials, or information about filing a complaint, call: 800 - 514 - 0301 Monday through Friday from 9:30 AM until 5:30 PM (eastern time) except on Thursday when the hours are 12:30 PM until 5:30 PM.
The following additional resources can answer many frequently asked questions about your rights under the ADA.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows for unpaid time off while protecting your job. This law applies to employers with 50 or more employees.
Employees who have worked at least 12 months and for 1250 hours during the last year
are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year. Upon return to work you must be restored to your original job or to an equivalent job with equivalent pay and benefits.
Employees with MS can utilize FMLA when they are having an exacerbation or intermittently when their fatigue becomes too great or they are just having a bad “MS day”. You can take FMLA in hours as well. Some people use it to take time off for medical treatments or to reduce their hours when returning from a medical leave.
You do need to provide medical documentation, and if it is a planned leave you need to give your employer 30 days notice. However you may have an exacerbation and wind up in the hospital and it is an unplanned situation. In this case, your employer would require documentation as soon as possible and you should discuss it with them as soon as you are able. Go to the following websites for additional information.
FMLA Interactive Medical Advisor
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
If you are experiencing difficulty with your job, it is to your advantage to avail yourself of all resources available to determine if there is a way to maintain your job with some type of accommodation. However, if you have exhausted all avenues and it seems like your only option is to leave your job then there are various financial assistance options available to help with this transition.
Short term disability (STD) insurance may be obtained via your own private policy or provided by an employer. NY State is one of a handful of states that require employers to provide short term disability. Cash benefits are 50 percent of your average weekly wage, but no more than $170 per week. Benefits are paid for a maximum of 26 weeks of disability during 52 consecutive weeks. Some employers provide more generous benefits however this will vary from organization to organization. People who work for the city and state are not eligible but may have coverage from their organization or union.
If you go on STD you can use FMLA to protect your job but remember it will only last for 12 weeks so if you are on STD beyond the 12 weeks you are not protected under FMLA. In most situations you are eligible if you can show you are unable to perform your current job due to your medical condition.
Questions regarding STD may be directed to the New York State Customer Service Information Center at 800-353-3092.
Long Term Disability may be obtained via an employer or private policy and depending upon the policy you are most often covered for 1 or 2 years if unable to do your current job and beyond that if unable to do any job. However, private policies can vary greatly so it’s important to obtain a copy of your policy and become familiar with its terms.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): SSDI is an insurance program for those who are disabled or blind and “insured” by worker’s contributions (meaning you have paid into the program through FICA taxes). Here are some basic facts you need to know about SSDI:
• you must have worked for five of the last 10 years;
• you can only apply once you have stopped working and have to prove that you
became disabled at a time when you were still insured;
• there is a waiting period of five months before you can receive benefits;
• you need to obtain a doctor’s letter stating that you won’t be able to work for at least one year. However, a doctor’s letter does not automatically mean you will qualify for SSDI;
• you must be able to show substantial limitations in day to day activities.
For more information on how to apply go to Social Security
Below are some additional resources regarding social security you might find helpful.
• Checklist-Adult Disability Interview
• Disability Benefits Checklist for Adults Applying on the Internet
• Medical and Job Worksheet-Adult
• Useful Websites and Resources
• What You Should Know Before You Apply for SSDI benefits
• Your Right to Representation
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act otherwise known as HIPAA helps you with maintaining your employer’s health insurance coverage and limits the impact of pre-existing condition. The following website will provide you with more information about the law.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
The following website answers the most frequently asked questions about the importance of continuing health insurance and pre-existing condition concerns.
FAQ's Regarding Portability of Insurance and HIPPA
Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows you to keep and pay for your employers’ coverage after you leave a job, for 36 months, unless termination was due to gross misconduct. For more information about the law and answers to specific questions check out the following websites.
Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA)
FAQs For Employees about COBRA