If you or a loved one is living with MS, it is crucial to know your rights related to disability and seek out legal defense when these rights are being violated.
For people living with a chronic disease that is often accompanied by mental or physical disability, legal protections are essential to ensure social and economic equity. Upon diagnosis, people with multiple sclerosis (MS) may wonder how their condition will affect everything from their employment status to their insurance coverage. The article discusses the legal protections in place for people with MS.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
MS is a condition that disrupts signals between the brain and body, unpredictably and progressively damaging the central nervous system. While multiple sclerosis life expectancy is estimated to be about six to seven years less than people without MS, it is also known to cause disability throughout one’s life. Severity of symptoms and prognosis differ by type of MS. For example, people with relapsing-remitting MS may have minimal physical disability. Depending on one’s age of diagnosis and severity of symptoms, individuals with MS can live with worsening mobility for decades.
MS and the Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in July 1990. The ADA established legal protections to prevent bias and discrimination in the workplace, and improve physical access to public services, healthcare, transportation, and more. The ADA recognizes MS as a disability, granting legal protections that serve to prevent discrimination across many sectors. We have the ADA to thank for reserved parking spots, automatic doors, and accessible restrooms, which did not exist 30 years ago.
Legal Protections for People with MS
The ADA outlines legal protections for those living with disabilities across many sectors. Here is an abridged version of those rights:
Under the ADA, people with MS are protected in the workplace. An employer is not allowed to discriminate against people with MS during the hiring process and beyond. Additionally, employers are expected to make reasonable accommodations if requested—such as modified work hours and location, reserved parking, and wheelchair accessibility—that make it possible for someone with disabilities to perform their job functions.
The ADA regulates equity in health insurance and can entitle someone with MS to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Combined with the Affordable Care Act, individuals with MS and other disabilities are not allowed to be discriminated against by health insurance for having pre-existing conditions. Coverage of treatment and other services depends on the kind of insurance you have. Those with qualifying disabilities may be eligible for Medicare before age 65. If an insurer does not authorize a recommendation made by a physician, you have the right to appeal limits or denials. Separately, SSDI can supplement or cover lost income for those who cannot work due to their disability. Learn more about qualifications for SSDI, the process of applying and appealing, and maintaining coverage.
Finally, the ADA also lays out guidelines for family law and finding legal resources.
If you or a loved one is living with MS, it is crucial to know your rights related to disability and seek out legal defense when these rights are being violated. While laws are put in place to prevent discrimination, they are not always known or enforced. Being informed is the best way to self-advocate while living with a disability.