When to Quit Working With MS

women working with MS frustrated thinking at desk with co workers

18 Apr 2024 | ~4:19 Engagement Time


Meghan Beier , Neuropsychologist


Roz Kalb , Psychologist

Special thanks to our sponsors, Viatris & EMD Serono.

Transitioning from Work to Disability Retirement With Multiple Sclerosis

Deciding when to quit working due to multiple sclerosis (MS) is never easy. Work forms a big part of our identity – it’s not just about the money, but also about the daily routine, structure, sense of accomplishment, and social relationships. For someone with MS, acknowledging that it’s time to step away from work can feel like losing a part of yourself, and it could be accompanied by emotions from relief to grief.

If you’re noticing that your job is becoming increasingly difficult due to MS symptoms, or you’re using so much of your limited energy on work that you have nothing left for your family or other activities, it might be time to consider a change. Perhaps fatigue is making full-time hours unbearable, or cognitive challenges are making tasks that used to be easy feel impossible. Maybe you’re using more sick days, your doctor has started documenting a decline in your physical or cognitive functions, or you’ve received a negative review at work. These signs suggest that it might be time to put your health first and consider applying for disability.

Understanding the Signs It's Time to Leave

Leaving your job due to MS starts with recognizing the signs that it’s time. Here are a few indicators:

  • Your MS symptoms are consistently interfering with your work, despite accommodations.
  • You’re experiencing a significant increase in sick days or medical leave.
  • Your medical team is concerned about the impact of your job on your health.
  • Your job performance is suffering, and you’ve noticed or received feedback about it.

Taking the Next Steps to Stop Working

When the signs to quit working with MS become clear, here’s a guide to help you through the transition:

  1. Consult your healthcare provider
    Have an open conversation with your doctor about the challenges you’re facing at work. Ask them to fully and accurately document your symptoms and how they’re affecting your job performance.
  2. Understand Your MS Benefits
    Familiarize yourself with your employer’s disability policy and what benefits you’re entitled to. This includes short-term and long-term disability insurance, if you have it.
  3. Research MS Disability Benefits
    Multiple sclerosis is considered a disability by both the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Social Security Administration. Learn about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), eligibility requirements, and application process. This process can be lengthy, so it’s wise to start early.
  4. Download the National MS’s Guidebook
    On Applying for Social Disability Insurance, making a one copy for yourself and one for your MS provider. The Guide provides a step-by-step roadmap for both of you – to ensure that your application contains all the information that SSA needs from you and your provider. Most SSDI applications are denied initially because they are incomplete or incorrect.
  5. Financial Planning
    Meet with a financial advisor to understand how leaving your job will affect your finances. They can help you plan for a future with a potentially reduced income.
  6. Contact a Disability Attorney
    A lawyer who specializes in disability can help streamline your application for disability benefits. They understand the system’s intricacies and can advocate on your behalf.
  7. Get the Emotional Support You Need
    This transition can be emotionally taxing. Consider speaking with a therapist or counselor who can support you through this significant life change.
  8. Notify Your Employer
    After preparing documentation and talking to a disability attorney, talk to your employer or HR department. It’s helpful to save this step until you are fully ready to stop working. Discuss any necessary next steps, like utilizing FMLA or long-term disability leave while you transition.
  9. Plan for the Wait
    After you apply for SSDI, be prepared for a waiting period. Use this time to adjust to your new routine, explore other interests and hobbies, and focus on your health.
  10. Stay Engaged
    Just because you’re leaving your job doesn’t mean you have to give up a professional life entirely. Explore volunteer work, part-time options, or hobbies that keep you connected and engaged.

Embracing This New Chapter

Leaving your job due to MS is a big step, but it’s one that can lead to a new chapter in your life that’s focused on taking care of your health and well-being. By preparing thoroughly and seeking the right support, you can make this transition smoother and maintain a quality of life that’s rewarding and fulfilling. Remember, stepping away from a job doesn’t mean stepping away from purpose or engagement. There are many paths to explore, and with the right approach, you can find the one that’s best for you.