Thursday, April 28, 2011

Society Volunteers Testify at Social Security Administration Hearing

On March 16, 2011 two volunteers from the National MS Society testified in front of senior government officials at the Social Security Administration’s Compassionate Allowances Hearing. The Social Security has an obligation to provide benefits quickly to applicants whose medical conditions are so serious that their conditions obviously meet disability standards. Compassionate allowances are a way of quickly identifying diseases and other medical conditions that invariably qualify under for disability benefits based on minimal objective medical information. To see the current conditions listed on the Compassionate Allowances program, click here.

Over the past few years, the Society has been working with the Social Security Administration to discuss the possibility of adding severe forms of multiple sclerosis to this list. Because of the varying symptoms and progression of the disease, the Social Security Administration was particularly interested in finding a quantitative way to characterize how a person with MS could qualify for this expedited approval process. As part of this process, the Society suggested a medical expert and a person living with MS to testify at the Compassionate Allowance Autoimmune Disease Hearing.

Dr. John Booss, a retired neurologist and long-time activist, spoke to the panel about the scientific and clinical background of MS. Additionally, Dr. Booss offered a potential model to determine whether a person with MS should qualify for a compassionate allowance determination. Yvonne Brown, an activist from Maryland, spoke about her personal struggle applying for Social Security Disability Insurance, notably the years she waited to be approved. She pointed out that if the Compassionate Allowances program was expanded, less people would have to endure the extremely long wait-period to receive benefits. To see video of the testimony or download the presentations, click here.

The Social Security Administration is now in the process of consulting with other internal experts about the appropriate diseases to add to the Compassionate Allowances List. When a new version is released, the National MS Society will communicate the information to our activists.

Dr. John Booss testifies at a Social Security Administration hearing

Yvonne Brown, MS activist, testifies at a Social Security Administration hearing