Patients with Parkinson’s disease may be unable to work because of their disease and its related complications. Patients who find themselves unable to work because of their Parkinson’s disease 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 Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the central nervous system, which controls movement. The section of the brain that produces dopamine is damaged. Parkinson’s disease is progressive, with symptoms getting worse over time. Patients may experience a temporary improvement of symptoms, only to have symptoms return shortly after that.
The main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are involuntary movement, stiffness, and tremors. The tremors may make it challenging to make controlled movements such as walking or using utensils. Stiffness can cause an unbalanced or shuffling gait. A monotonous tone of voice or a lack of facial expressions may be noticeable. Some people have involuntary, repetitive movements. Patients in the later stages of the disease may also have trouble swallowing.
Parkinson’s disease also includes a range of mental and cognitive symptoms. Memory, mood, and intellectual ability can all be affected. Dementia is linked with the later stages of the disease. Depression and social withdrawal are possible, both because of the disorder and the difficulty of managing symptoms and being social.
Because symptoms progress slowly, patients may not initially realize that anything is wrong. In older patients, symptoms can be dismissed as the effects of aging. This leads to an unnecessary delay in treatment.
Diagnosing Parkinson’s Disease
The first symptom patients usually experience is mild trembling. Seeing a doctor as soon as the symptoms present gives you the best chance at slowing the progression of the disease. The doctor will perform a neuromotor exam that includes testing the reflexes, pupil tracking, and muscle tone. The patient may perform exercises such as picking things up or walking up and down a hallway. Presence of tremor, gait issues, and bradykinesia are critical to a Parkinson’s diagnosis. Further medical imaging is often necessary to make an accurate diagnosis as well as to rule out other conditions. Since early symptoms can also be indicative of other disorders, it is essential to ensure that the diagnosis is correct. Diagnostic scans of the brain, like MRIs or CAT scans, can determine if there is damage to the brain or another condition may be present.
Treating Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease can be treated, but it cannot be cured. The primary treatments are relieving symptoms and slowing the progression of symptoms. The first line of treatment is balancing brain chemistry through the use of medications that act on the neurotransmitters dopamine and acetylcholine. MAO-b inhibitors are used to block an enzyme that breaks down dopamine. Some patients may need additional treatment through implanted deep brain stimulators (DBS). These devices are embedded in the brain to stimulate brain activity in particular regions. DBS is particularly helpful for people who have not responded well to medication.
Physical therapy is a vital component of the treatment regime. Physical activity strengthens the muscles and helps to prevent further damage to the nervous system by releasing dopamine.
Disability Evaluation of Parkinson’s Disease
Definition of Disability
Most LTD plans consider a person disabled if they have a medical condition that causes them to 1) be unable to perform their work duties for the first two years of the policy and 2) be unable to complete the work duties of almost any occupation for the years following the initial 2-year period. Each LTD plan defines disability as slightly different, so look over your plan policy to see how your plan determines “disabled.”
Evaluating Disability for People with Parkinson’s Disease
Patients seeking disability payments for their Parkinson’s disease will have to prove that they are impacted in a way that they cannot perform their old job or any job that they could be trained to work.
It is essential to tell the insurance company about any doctor that has treated you for your Parkinson’s disease. The insurance company will need to obtain all relevant medical records to get the full picture of your health. If for any reason they cannot get these records from your doctors, you should request them and provide them to the insurance company yourself.
Your doctors should send their complete exam notes and all relevant medical testing and lab results.
You will need to provide proof of your diagnosis and your ongoing symptoms, as well as proof of how you are affected by your symptoms. Providing detailed documentation is key to a successful claim. Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessments determine how you are affected by the condition and what you can do despite your limitations. It is used to determine what jobs you may still be qualified to perform. Patients with severe tremors or stiffness may have difficulty with basic tasks such as picking up a phone or typing on a computer. Jobs that require coordination or muscle tone would be challenging. Make sure that you are as honest as possible with your doctors so that they can complete an accurate RFC for you.
Working with a Long Term Disability Attorney
Since you are so limited by the appeals process, consider consulting a disability attorney very early on. Even with a claim for Parkinson’s disease, it can be tricky to navigate the claims and 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 Parkinson’s disease 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.