Multiple Sclerosis in the Workplace
John L. Keefe
Each week, about 200 Americans are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. No one knows what causes the disease, but it is two to three times more prevalent in women.
Getting a diagnosis of MS is overwhelming. You may not be sure exactly what your diagnosis means. Since MS is usually a progressive disease, you know that your symptoms will get worse over time. However, there is no way to predict how quickly the disease will progress or how debilitating the symptoms will be.
If you are in your 20s, 30s or 40s, you probably planned to work for another 20 years or longer. One of your main concerns may be how the disease will affect your ability to earn a living. Again, this will depend on your unique symptoms. What we do know is that 50 percent of those diagnosed with MS will leave their jobs within three years of diagnosis; 85 percent of those who leave their jobs will say that fatigue is a major reason they are unable to work.
It is up to you to decide what to tell your employer. For now, you may be able to do your job with little or no changes. As your disease progresses, vision changes, mobility problems, and increased fatigue may affect your ability to keep working. The Americans with Disabilities act allows you “reasonable” accommodations from your employer so you can keep working as long as possible. Employer accommodations for employees with multiple sclerosis may include flexible schedules, combining short breaks into a longer rest period, and parking close to the workplace.
There may come a time when reasonable accommodation is not enough. You may have too many “bad days” to work enough hours to earn a living, or you may be too exhausted to work. When this is the case, you may want to apply for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) for multiple sclerosis.
The Social Security taxes that are taken out of your paycheck are used to fund SSDI. You can access these benefits if a disability leaves you unable to work for 12 months or longer. To be approved, you must either meet the Social Security listing for multiple sclerosis or show that your symptoms are severe enough to prevent you from working. There are tips to help you with your application in our article, “Winning Tips for SSDI Applicants with Multiple Sclerosis”.
Do you want more information? Get the answers in your free copy of New Hampshire disability attorney John Keefe’s book, Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability, or call us at 888-904-6847 to schedule a free case evaluation.
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