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Progressive Disabilities: The Many Forms of Multiple Sclerosis

Next to heart disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most expensive condition to treat in the United States. Medical treatments, living modifications, and lost wages cost MS patients an average of $70,000 per year. There is no cure for multiple sclerosis, and it can kill its victims. However, treatment has improved in recent years such that the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) reports that patients with MS have a life expectance of only seven years less than average.

The unpredictability of multiple sclerosis is among the worst of its many associated difficulties. MS manifests in four primary ways, and some patients are more symptomatic than others. For example, the majority of MS sufferers can walk and engage in the normal activities of daily living, while MS will paralyze about a third of suffers.

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone suffering from multiple sclerosis elects or even qualifies for individual or group disability benefits. With the power of technology, many patients choose to work from home or are granted modified work environments. However, due to the degenerative, neurological nature of MS, many patients have no choice but to eventually claim long-term individual or group disability benefits.

The compassionate individual and group award-winning ERISA long-term disability lawyers at DarrasLaw understand the fluid, frustrating nature of this debilitating disease. Our top-rated long-term disability attorneys and nationally renowned ERISA lawyers will conduct a completely free disability policy analysis and free claim consultation to help you understand your legal rights while suffering from MS. Call us today at 800-898-7299 or contact us online. We’ll help you fight your disability insurer, so you can properly treat your MS.

An Overview of Multiple Sclerosis

In the broadest sense, Multiple Sclerosis is a degenerative central nervous system disorder. MS is generally considered an autoimmune disorder because your immune system attacks the normal functions of your nerves, including your brain, spine, and eyes. In fact, your immune system will specifically attack the cells protecting your nerve fibers. Once your immune system leaves these sensitive fibers unprotected, they will begin to deteriorate, causing communication problems and create irreversible damage to your nervous system.

Your symptoms will vary depending on the severity of your nerve damage. This is one of the many reasons to treat MS early, because sometimes certain medications can help slow the deterioration. If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms of MS, contact your treating doctor immediately:

  • Numbness or weakness in any of your arms or legs, especially if the numbness alternates between the left and right sides of your body
  • Double vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Tremors
  • Lack of coordination
  • Difficulty walking or balancing
  • Dizziness
  • Vision loss or pain with eye movement
  • Tingling or pain in parts of your body
  • A shock-like sensation when moving your neck
  • Bowel and bladder dysfunction

MS also typically manifests in women between the ages of 20 and 50, so take extra precautions if you are in that age group or have a family history of MS.

The following risk factors are also commonly associated with MS:

  • Age – Surprisingly, the disease tends to strike those between the ages of 20 and 50, unlike many degenerative diseases that occur later in the senior years.
  • Gender – Women are twice as likely to develop MS than men.
  • Infections – Serious viral infections such as Epstein-Barr are linked to MS.
  • Autoimmune disorders – Although MS is an autoimmune disorder itself, if you have diabetes, IBS, or thyroid disease, you have a higher risk of developing MS.
  • Smoking – If you are diagnosed with an isolated incident of MS, your symptoms are more likely to return if you smoke.
  • Family history – While researchers have yet to find direct genetic markers for MS, you have a higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis if it runs in your family.
  • Climate – Strangely, MS is more common in Canada and the Northern United States than it is in other parts of the country.

If you’re experiencing difficulty walking, focusing, concentrating, working in the heat, or have problems with your vision or gait in combination with these risk factors, contact your treating doctor immediately.

The Four Types of Multiple Sclerosis

The four distinct manifestations of the disease include:

  1. Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS)—MS typically manifests as a single episode of neurological abnormality caused by inflammation of your central nervous system. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to diagnose at this stage, and your treating doctor will need to rule out similar conditions. The flare-up must last at least 24 hours for doctors to diagnose it as a multiple sclerosis episode. However, a CIS diagnosis is not the same as an MS diagnosis.
  2. Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) – This type of MS consists of sudden MS attacks from which you temporarily may fully recover. Your condition may progress between attacks—while it comes and goes, it can get worse. You may experience absolutely no symptoms between periods of relapse, or suffer some persistent symptoms. This is the most common type of MS, accounting for about 85 percent of all initial MS diagnoses. Doctors further classify it as active, not active, worsening, or not worsening. Accordingly, patients can experience a different variety of symptoms and episodes while still having a type of RRMS.
  3. Secondary progressive MS (SPMS) – Similar to relapsing-remitting MS, sudden attacks characterize secondary progressive MS, but they consistently get worse as the disease progresses. Many patients initially diagnosed with RRMS, where symptoms may not worsen between attacks, will eventually develop SPMS. With this condition, your neurological function progressively worsens. Many SPMS patients consider disability.
  4. Primary progressive MS (PPMS) – This type of MS is not characterized by a cycle of flare-ups after which symptoms subside. Instead, neurological functions progressively worsen. Most individuals with PPMS also consider total disability.

Because most MS is a progressive disorder, these categories represent the general course of the disease. They are not separate diseases in themselves, as they all result from an underlying immune disorder.

Doctors don’t diagnose most patients with MS if they only experience singular episodes. As such, it may be difficult to qualify for individual or group long-term disability benefits during the early stages of MS. Instead, you’ll likely have to rely on sick leave and even short-term disability benefits until your disease progresses.

For some, MS may not progress beyond the single or multiple episode stages, especially if doctors catch and treat it early. Early intervention may substantially slow the progress of MS. Others may experience a sudden onset of PPMS, which is more difficult to treat and results in total or partial disability.

Although multiple sclerosis is a terrible disease, a diagnosis won’t automatically qualify you for individual or group long-term disability benefits. Instead, you’ll have to present medical evidence documenting the restrictions and limitations of your disability as well as how your MS prevents you from performing the important duties of your occupation. The top-rated long-term disability attorneys and nationally recognized ERISA lawyers at DarrasLaw understand the different stages of MS and the clinical evidence necessary to file a successful claim for individual or group long-term disability benefits. Call them today for a free disability policy analysis and free claim consultation.

Multiple Sclerosis and individual or Group Long-Term Disability Benefits

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the majority of beneficiaries receiving disability payments after an MS diagnosis report difficulty walking. Whether they are paralyzed, wheelchair bound, or simply unsteady on their feet, this is the most common MS symptom. Difficulty walking due to MS typically occurs due to:

  • Spasticity
  • Weakness
  • Imbalance and incoordination
  • Tremors

MS claimants may need to establish how and to what extent their “gait disturbance” affects their ability to reliably function at work. With private long-term individual or group disability policies, this means you’ll have to establish how MS affects your ability to perform the important duties of your occupation with reasonable continuity.

Mental and psychological impairments—including fatigue and emotional depression—often mark the later stages of MS. Psychotherapeutic drugs can often treat these symptoms, but not organic dementia.

Generally, you need to do more than claim you have difficulty walking and suffer from fatigue to successfully apply for individual or group long-term disability benefits due to MS. Instead, you’ll need to submit clinical documentation addressing how your particular variation of MS directly hurts your ability to reliably complete the important duties of your occupation.


Treating Multiple Sclerosis—What Your Disability Insurer Needs to See

Your individual or group long-term disability insurer starts with the assumption that you’re not disabled. Many disabled Americans suffering from MS are surprised to learn that the diagnosis isn’t enough, nor are intermittent flare-ups to qualify. Even with a diagnosis as debilitating as MS, you’re expected to prove that you not only have the condition, but also that your symptoms prevent you from working.

Furthermore, if you’re not receiving treatment in accordance with recognized standards for MS, your individual or group long-term disability insurer will generally deny you benefits. For example, while depression is commonly associated with MS, your individual or group long-term disability insurance company may insist that you can treat this condition with medication. If you’re not taking medication to treat a disability, your individual or group long term disability insurance company may see this as a red flag.

MS treatments depend on a wide variety of factors, including your age, overall health, individual symptoms, and the stage of your condition. While no cure exists for MS, the following treatments may reduce symptoms and slow the disease’s progression:

  • Injectable, intravenous, and oral medications such as Avonex, Rebif, Gilenya, and Ocrevus may slow the progression of multiple sclerosis.
  • High-dose steroids such as prednisone are used to treat relapses—that is, repeated attacks on your central nervous system—by reducing the inflammation that ultimately damages your nerves.
  • A variety of medications are used to treat the bladder infections and bowel dysfunctions associated with the later stages of MS, including but not limited to Bactrim, Colace, milk of magnesia, mineral oils, Oxytrol, and Tofranil.
  • Well-known antidepressants such as Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Cymbalta, and Prozac may treat MS-associated depression.
  • Doctors have difficulty treating fatigue because it’s often the result of the underlying symptoms and your medications. Prozac and certain drugs are also recommended to treat fatigue, but rest is often your best option.

If your individual or group long term disability insurance company grants you benefits as a result of your MS, you can’t stop treating. Your disability insurance company will require you to submit regularly updated medical reports from your treating doctors certifying that you’re still disabled and showing that you’re receiving the most appropriate medical care for the condition causing your disability.

Let the Award Winning Long-Term Disability Attorneys and Skilled ERISA Lawyers at DarrasLaw Review Your MS Case

A diagnosis of MS is life-changing, but it doesn’t mean you must stop living. The top-rated individual and nationally renowned group long-term disability lawyers at DarrasLaw know your goal is to get healthy, not worry about getting or keeping your individual or group long-term disability benefits. Let our experienced disability attorneys and top-rated ERISA lawyers conduct a free disability policy analysis and free claim consultation.

Led by the nation’s leading disability attorney, Frank N. Darras and his firms have recovered nearly $1 billion in wrongfully delayed, denied, and terminated insurance benefits. To schedule your free disability consultation and free case analysis, call us today at 800-898-7299 or contact us online.

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