Our society is very oriented to work.  We ask what people do, at even the most social occasions, but really mean to inquire where and what they do for wages.  During the period immediately after diagnosis, some people with MS report that they become very concerned about their work and the demands of their job.  They may fear that they will not be able to continue to work if the MS progresses. 

People worry that if there are frequent exacerbations, they will need to use a lot of sick leave and their jobs won’t be able to accommodate their needs.  Health insurance, which is most often tied to our work, becomes very important when expensive medications and treatments are needed.  Many people elect not to disclose their diagnosis to their employer and choose to remain very selective about who is to be told.  For those individuals, the dual concerns of having a diagnosis with few answers and maintaining work responsibilities without giving any indication of their current status can be challenging.

Being diagnosed with MS doesn’t automatically mean a person can’t work.  It also doesn’t automatically qualify you to receive Social Security Disability (SSDI or SSI), although every year some people with MS apply for those programs and are able to receive them.  Each person is unique and must take into account their symptoms and exacerbation rates, job duties, and financial needs.  Many people with MS work up until normal retirement age and after.

But, for some people, it isn’t always possible to continue to work at pre-diagnosis productivity levels.  Some of the reasons people cite for having trouble at work include, fatigue, depression, cognitive problems, vision disruptions, and physical limitations.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1992 to provide people with disabilities, including those with MS, equitable treatment in the workplace.  There are some very specific limitations to the ADA, and it is important to know your rights, as well as where you are at risk. 

There are many good resources to educate you about the ADA.  A good place to start is with the National ADA Homepage at www.ADA.gov or by calling the toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 (voice) 800-514-0383 (TDD).