Patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may be unable to work because of their disease and its related complications. Patients who find themselves unable to work because of their amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may qualify for long term disability (LTD) benefits. The insurance company will review their claim to see if they qualify under the conditions of that plan.
What is ALS?
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a well-known degenerative disease based on the awareness created by the popular ice bucket challenge that swept the internet in 2014. The challenge raised funds for ALS research and provided the public with a greater understanding of the disease.
ALS is also known as Lou Gerhig’s Disease. It’s a degenerative nerve disorder that attacks the nerve cells of the spinal cord and brain. Patients lose muscle function and eventually can no longer eat, speak, or breathe.
Early signs of ALS include:
- Increased clumsiness;
- Difficulty walking, carrying items in a regular daily activity like a purse or shopping bags;
- Difficulty holding or grasping items like a pen or coffee cup;
- The feeling of heaviness in your legs and feet;
- Twitching of arms or hands; and
- Slurring of speech.
Advanced symptoms of ALS include:
- Difficulty breathing;
- Trouble swallowing and inability to use arms for feeding; and
- Failure to control muscles, leading to being wheel-chair bound.
Despite how serious and fatal ALS is, insurance companies will fight with you on approving long term disability benefits. Insurance companies typically use the argument that there is no objective basis for the claimant’s symptoms and limitations, that the limitations and restrictions are not supported by the treating physician’s notes.
Types of ALS
There are two major types of ALS:
Sporadic: This is the most common type of ALS. It’s called sporadic because the symptoms occur without warning or a known cause.
Familial: This type of ALS that is passed down through a genetic mutation. Only 5-10% of the population suffers from the generic form of ALS.
Diagnosis of ALS
It’s difficult to diagnose the early signs of ALS because the symptoms are so similar to many other neurological disorders. No one test can determine if you have the disease, but a series of tests can be conducted:
EMG: Electromyography is a test that measures small electrical pulses from your muscles. An EMG will measure the amount of electrical activity in your muscles as it pulses and rests.
NCS: Nerve conductivity study is a test used to measure the speed of the nerve signals by sending a shock through the nerve. This test helps to determine the level of nerve damage you may have.
Imaging: Image tests like a CT scan or MRI are common tests for various diseases and can help your doctor see if there is a visible brain or spinal damage.
Spinal Tap: A spinal tap, also known as a lumbar puncture, is a test to collect fluid from the spinal canal.
Treatment for ALS
When you file your long term disability claim, your insurance company will want to see that you are receiving treatment from your physician. Although there is no cure, doctors can still treat the symptoms, monitor you to avoid complications, and provide support through therapy and counseling services. Medications can help slow the progression of the disease and help with symptoms like fatigue, pain, depression, sleep problems, and muscle spasms. Physical therapy will help you manage your mobility issues and pain. Occupational therapy will help you maintain your independence for as long as possible, teaching you how to perform daily activities like dressing, bathing, feeding, with the disease. A speech therapist can teach you adaptive techniques to help you communicate.
How Do You Prove Your Long Term Disability Case with ALS?
Your insurance company will want to see that you have been following your treatment plan, including taking your medications, making your doctor’s appointments, and attending your therapy sessions. Additionally, they will want to see how each of your symptoms affects your ability to perform your job duties.
For example, James has been diagnosed with the early stages of ALS and currently works as a manager of an auto body shop. His inability to hold objects makes it impossible for him to fill out order forms and handle merchandise without dropping it. His slurred speech has also made it difficult for him to communicate effectively with his employees and customers. When filing for long term disability, James will need to have detailed doctors’ notes that explain his symptoms and how they are affecting his daily life. Evidence from treating physicians is essential to getting a claim approved.
Working With a Long Term Disability Attorney
If you have been diagnosed with ALS, you may be entitled to long-term disability benefits. Insurance companies try to make the process as difficult as possible. Since you are so limited by the appeals process, consider consulting a disability attorney very early on. Even with a claim for ALS, it can be tricky to navigate the appeals process. Working with an experienced disability attorney will give you the best chance of getting the benefits you deserve. If you have been denied disability benefits, do not lose hope. Many people are denied benefits the first time they apply. You have the right to file an appeal and to get more information that may help your case.
While the process can be daunting, your expert disability attorney will be able to guide you through the process. Getting expert help is often the difference between being denied and being approved for benefits. An experienced long term disability attorney can help you stay on top of your deadlines, help you gather your documents, assist you during field interviews, and give you guidance that will help you get your claim approved. They do not get paid until you win your case. You can seek help without worrying about upfront costs or unexpected bills.
The Ortiz Law Firm has successfully represented people in disability cases across the United States. If you would like to talk to an experienced disability lawyer about your ALS and its impact on your ability to work, the Ortiz Law Firm offers a free consultation with no obligation to use our firm. During the call, you can ask any questions you have regarding your claim, and we will answer them. To see how we can help you win your long-term disability case, call us at (888) 321- 8131.