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Disability Rights
It's a very fine line as to what a disability is and who is defining it. A disability can be defined quite differently by an employer, insurance company, a doctor, and even a government agency. This becomes the time where what is said, written, or stated in any manner or context can help or hurt one's rights. It's also important to not lie about anything since first it's not the right thing to do and second it can come back and cause greater problems.

As in any legal issue, it's important to be careful what information is given out. All it can take is a misspoken word or an omission of a fact and then factual or not, you may be denied your rights. After you are denied, you then have to fight to regain what you have lost.

Different entities will require a lot of different information. If you provide information that could be seen as unfavorable, you could be denied benefits. Your employer, health insurance company, disability insurance, and Social Security, have specific requirements that must be met for you to be considered as disabled. Knowing what the requirements are can save you a lot of time and effort.

Workplace Accommodations

Every company will react differently once they are informed of any health related issue. You may simply wish to make them aware of your health issue, seek workplace accommodations, or seek disability, but at some point you will have to inform them. What affect it could have on your job is up to each individual company and how they value their employees.

It's important to know that you do have legal rights concerning your job and how your employer handles any illness or disability such as multiple sclerosis (MS). If an employer has little or no experience with handling a disability, then it will probably be in your best interest to help educate them. Be sure to handle any contact with an employer in a non-threatening way, otherwise they may not be willing to assist you.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities and may protect you to some extent with your current employer. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the agency that deals with charges against employers who are felt to violate the ADA along with any state or local anti-discrimination agency. You have the right to contact the EEOC or an attorney that specializes in workplace disability claims if you feel that you are not being treated in a fair manner.

Personal Disability Insurance

If you have a long-term disability insurance plan that you personally pay for, it's very important to know everything that is and is not covered, and how they define a "disability." These policies can only be purchased prior to being disabled and unfortunately are something a healthy person never considers. If you have purchased a policy prior to being diagnosed with MS, and then if you ever become "disabled" under their definition, you can file a claim. This type of policy is just like dealing with any insurance claim, it's always important to be careful what you say and don't say.

If you have to file a claim then you will probably be asked to be examined by a doctor of the insurance companies choosing for verification and if your disability claim is determined as valid, then there should not be a problem. Remember that every insurance company defines a "disability" differently, so make sure you look at how your policy defines it, because unless your symptoms specifically fall into their definition, there's a chance that they could deny your claim.

If your claim is denied, then do additional research and appeal the decision. You once again have the right to an attorney and it may be wise to at least contact one prior to filing any claim. These types of insurance plans would usually fall under the jurisdiction of a state insurance commissioner.

Workplace Disability Insurance

Now if your employer carries and pays for the long-term disability plan, then that plan would fall under the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and the U.S. Department of Labor. This type of plan gets a bit more complicated so again be careful what you say or don't say. Make sure that you are aware of what falls into the plan and again how they define a "disability." If they feel that you have not provided enough information, then they will most likely deny your claim. If you say anything that they could question, then they could in their view have a reason to deny your claim.

Unlike a disability policy that you may purchase, this type of policy might seem similar but with one big difference; the insurance company can't be sued for punitive damages. So they have nothing to loose if they deny your claim and end up loosing a suit that you may file against them. All they would be required to pay for would be attorney fees in addition to paying the policy.

If you don't feel like battling, then they can usually get you to settle for less than what the policy is worth - so they technically can come out ahead. Again, you do have the right to seek the advise of an attorney at any point of the processes. It would be wise to contact one prior to filing any claim is you are not comfortable with this or feel that they are not taking you seriously.

The National MS Society provides a booklet that can help you to know your rights. It's an easy to read Q & A format containing information on employment, SSDI, family law, insurance, and more. It offers resources in each chapter, form letters and helpful guides for navigating legal difficulties.

You can download it directly from the National MS Society from the link below in "A Guide to Disability Rights Laws" section.
Recent Updates to the Law
The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) was signed into law on September 25th, 2008. Since the ADA was signed into law in 1990, judicial rulings had begun to rule that those with disabilities that could control symptoms with disease modifying drugs were precluded from seeking reasonable workplace accommodations.

Some were being told by the courts that they were not disabled due to the fact that they were taking medication that essentially made them not disabled. So you were left with the choice of being disabled by not taking medication or being not disabled when you do take your medication. The other major issue was that if your condition was eposodic, or not always severe, then you may not be considered disabled.

The newly signed ADA Amendments Act clarifies and defines a disability as still a disability even while medications are in control of symptoms. It also states that courts should not consider the effects of "mitigating measures" such as drugs and physical aides. It specifies that "an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active," meaning basically a person is considered disabled even if medications or physical aides allow them to function as if they are not disabled. The ADA Amendments Act became effective January 1, 2009 and once again reaffirms the protections of those with disabilities.

The ADA Amendments Act retains the ADA's basic definition of "disability" as an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. However, it changes the way that these statutory terms should be interpreted in several ways. Most significantly, the ADA Amendments Act:
Directs EEOC to revise that portion of its regulations defining the term "substantially limits";
expands the definition of "major life activities" by including two non-exhaustive lists:
the first list includes many activities such as walking as well as activities not specifically recognized such as reading, bending, and communicating;
the second list includes major bodily functions (e.g., "functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions");
states that mitigating measures other than "ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses" shall not be considered in assessing whether an individual has a disability;
clarifies that an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active;
changes the definition of "regarded as" so that it no longer requires a showing that the employer perceived the individual to be substantially limited in a major life activity, and instead says that an applicant or employee is "regarded as" disabled if he or she is subject to an action prohibited by the ADA (e.g., failure to hire or termination) based on an impairment that is not transitory and minor;
provides that individuals covered only under the "regarded as" prong are not entitled to reasonable accommodation. 
A Guide to Disability Rights Laws
The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Disability Rights Section has put out "A Guide to Disability Rights Laws." A .pdf copy from there site can be opened in a new window by pressing direct download here or you can go to the government site directly at http://www.ada.gov/cguide.htm.

The National MS Society also provides a booklet called "Know Your Rights: A Legal Guide for People Living with Multiple Sclerosis" that can help you to understand your rights. It's an easy to read Q & A format containing information on employment, SSDI, family law, insurance, and more. It offers resources in each chapter, form letters and helpful guides for navigating legal difficulties. A .pdf copy from there site can be opened in a new window by pressing direct download here or you can go to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and enter "Know Your Rights" into their search box. It should be one of the first search results listed.



The Americans with Disabilities Act
http://www.ada.gov


U.S. Labor Department Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
http://www.eeoc.gov


Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/


Disability Evaluation Under Social Security (The Blue Book)
http://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook


Social Security Planner
http://www.ssa.gov/dibplan


Disability.gov
http://www.Disability.gov