Myasthenia Gravis (MG) is a disease that strikes people of all ages, often causing disability to such an extent that the victim is unable to work full time. When MG symptoms cause such significant limitations in an individual’s ability to perform physical tasks on a limited or sustained basis, or causes mental capacities to be markedly reduced relative to a full work day’s needs, the disability is one that can be recognized by the Social Security Administration (SSA) as a basis for cash disability benefits.
The SSA is the federal agency that provides workers suffering from disabling Myasthenia Gravis with their Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDIB) after they successfully file a claim. In addition to Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, the SSA also administers the federal welfare program called Supplemental Security Income (SSI) that can also provide disabled individuals with disability cash benefits. SSI includes disability benefits for poor non-workers and former workers that are no longer insured for SSDIB, or have a very low benefit amount from his SSDIB.
For those suffering from Myasthenia Gravis, many of the symptoms to self-evaluate to determine if one potentially has a legal disability under the SSDIB program include:
- Muscle weakness
- Increased muscle weakness upon repetitive activity/motion
- Drooping eye lids (ptosis)
- Double vision (diplopia)
- Change in speech sound (i.e. more soft or very nasal)
- Swallowing difficulties, increase in choking risk
- Chewing difficulties (i.e. unable to complete a meal due to fatigue of chewing muscles
- Reduction in facial muscle usage (i.e. less expression, lost smile, etc.)
- Leg, arm, torso and neck weakness (making walking, standing, sitting, reaching, and lifting difficult generally, or in repetition; you may even have difficulty holding up your head or sitting upright and unsupported in a chair).
The Social Security Administration actually noted Myasthenia Gravis as one of its Blue Book “listings”. If an individual with symptomatic MG can prove, medically, that her condition meets or equates with that described in the Blue Book listing, then she will be found disabled and she need not further prove that she can not work full time. The listing requirements include:
A. Significant difficulty with speaking, swallowing, or breathing while on prescribed therapy; or
B. Significant motor weakness of muscles of extremities on repetitive activity against resistance while on prescribed therapy.
While it can be difficult to prove that one meets the Myasthenia Gravis listing, if one’s symptoms are well-documented by her physicians in a manner that is required under the SSA’s rules, the claim can be won quickly. The single biggest factor leading to a win of an award may result from the individual patient’s frequent and regular treatment with her diligent medical provider. It is very important that she verbalizes her ongoing symptoms and how they affect her activities of daily living to her doctor, and ask that he record them in her file. (It may also be a good idea to provide the complaints in writing, at each appointment, and ask the physician to include them in her file.) Those subjective complaints combined with the physician’s objective findings, physical examination, diagnostic tests and prognosis can make or break a claim.
It is very important to note also, however, that if one cannot establish a Blue Book Listing level of Myasthenia Gravis, she can still win her disability case; in fact, most people who win may not even win as a Listing. She still has the opportunity to prove that she has a residual functional capacity, in light of the symptoms and limitations evident from her condition, that prevents her from working full time. Because the process can be a long one and there is rarely a benefit to waiting to start the application process for SSDIB benefits, as soon as one is prevented from working substantially, they can, and usually should, start the application process.