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Life Planning and Independence

Social Security Disability

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) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society developed a new Social Security Disability Guidebook to assist in deciding whether applying for disability benefits is right for you and in navigating the complex application process.  Find the link to the right to get started.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes MS as a chronic illness or “impairment” that can cause disability severe enough to prevent an individual from working. If you have any of the following symptoms, or any combination of these or other symptoms, that prevent you from working, you might qualify for Social Security 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 called an insurance program, because you pay into 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.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a different program that provides cash benefits to assist people who do not have a work history that would qualify them for SSDI and who have very little or no income and resources.

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. This new Guidebook focuses primarily on the SSDI application process but includes helpful information for both programs. If you need additional information or help as you read through the Guidebook, contact your Chapter of the National MS Society, call SSA at 1-800-772-1213, or visit www.socialsecurity.gov/disability

For more information and referral to a representative, contact one of these organizations:


Government Entitlement Services
(313) 350-8250

National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives (NOSSCR)


SSDI resources

NEW! SSDI Guidebook for People with MS

The National MS Sclerosis Society developed this guidebook to assist you in deciding whether applying for disability benefits is right for you and in navigating the complex application process.

Download SSDI Guidebook (PDF)*

Worksheets and Sample Letters (PDF)

1. Applicant Medical History
2. How MS Impacts Your Functioning and Ability to Work
3. Physician Medical Information Worksheet
4. Applicant Work History

Sample Physician-to-SSA Letter

6. SSA MS Listing and Criteria Reference Sheet

NEW! SSDI Guidebook for Healthcare Professionals

The National MS Society developed this guidebook to facilitate discussion between healthcare professionals and their patients about the Social Security disability benefit application process and streamline efforts to document eligibility. 

Download SSDI Guidebook for Professionals (PDF)*

Worksheets and Sample Letters (PDF)


Disability Evaluation Checklist


SSA Criteria for Evaluating MS Impairments


Sample Physician-to-SSA Letter


Sample Psychologist-to-SSA Letter

* To view or print a PDF file, Adobe Acrobat Reader is required.

  Last updated December 18, 2007