You may qualified for Long Term Disability if you have a neurological problem that makes it impossible for you to sustain full-time, gainful employment.
What Neurological Problems qualify for Long Term Disability?
Neurological disabilities are not limited to disorders of the brain. Neurological disorders can occur anywhere in the central nervous system, including the peripheral nervous system and the spinal cord. LTD insurance companies may approve disability benefits for serious cases of epilepsy, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, ALS, and other nerve-based diseases.
It would be nearly impossible to list every possible neurological problem that may qualify for long term disability (LTD) insurance benefits. You are qualified for LTD benefits if you have a neurological problem that renders you disabled, as that term is defined under your long term disability policy.
To satisfy your burden of proof in your disability claim, you will need to demonstrate that your symptoms are severe enough that you cannot perform work on an ongoing basis even though you have been under the care of a physician (typically a neurologist) and have taken all prescribed medicines.
Some of the more common neurological problems that may qualify for long term disability benefits include the following:
Advanced Parkinson’s Disease can disrupt one’s walking, standing and/or ability to use one’s hands effectively. One may be eligible for LTD benefits with such limitations.
Parkinsonian Syndrome is a type of movement disorder where patients have difficulty with movement. It is a progressive disease, which means that it can get worse over time.
Huntington’s Disease / Huntington’s Chorea
Huntington’s Disease also causes significant problems with walking, using one’s hands, and may result in marked changes in one’s cognitive (thinking) abilities. If severe enough, Huntington’s may make one eligible to receive disability benefits.
Vascular Dementia or Dementia With Lewy Bodies (DLB)
A form of dementia caused by an impaired supply of blood to the brain, such as may be caused by a series of small strokes.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
ALS is short for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
Pick’s Disease and Other Rare Neurodegenerative Diseases
Pick’s Disease is a rare form of progressive dementia, typically occurring in late middle age and often familial, involving localized atrophy of the brain. Those with Pick’s Disease, corticobasal degeneration, progressive supranuclear palsy, or CJD may qualify for Long Term Disability benefits.
Muscular Atrophy describes another group of diseases which cause a progressive degeneration of the spinal nerves and wasting of the muscles that they control. Whether you will qualify for LTD benefits for muscular atrophy depends on the degree of muscle wasting you have and the limitations it causes.
Muscular Dystrophy is the name given to a group of diseases which cause progressive weakness in the muscles due to a genetic defect.
Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) is a debilitating, life-shortening, degenerative neuro-muscular disorder. About one in 50,000 people in the United States have Friedreich’s ataxia.
Spinocerebellar Ataxia (SCA), which is also known as Spinocerebellar atrophy or Spinocerebellar degeneration, is a progressive, degenerative, genetic disease, characterized by progressive problems with movement, including problems with coordination and balance (ataxia).
Disorders of the Central Nervous System
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
MS is a chronic, typically progressive disease involving damage to the sheaths of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, whose symptoms may include numbness, impairment of speech and of muscular coordination, blurred vision, and severe fatigue.
Stroke (Cerebrovascular Accident)
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. Residual problems may include serious problems communicating, walking, or using one’s hands due to the stroke.
Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder marked by sudden recurrent episodes of sensory disturbance, loss of consciousness, or convulsions, associated with abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Whether one will receive LTD benefits for epilepsy depends on the types of seizures, their frequency, and how the seizures disrupt the claimant’s daily activities.
CP is a condition marked by impaired muscle coordination (spastic paralysis) and/or other disabilities, typically caused by damage to the brain before or at birth. Long Term Disability benefits may be available to those whose cerebral palsy causes problems with walking, talking, speaking, thinking, seeing, hearing, and more.
Dystonia is a state of abnormal muscle tone resulting in muscular spasm and abnormal posture, typically due to neurological disease or a side effect of drug therapy. Long Term Disability insurance companies will likely evaluate a dystonia claim in a similar way to the way it evaluates claims for Parkinson’s Disease.
Post-polio syndrome (PPS, or post-poliomyelitis syndrome or post-polio sequelae) is a condition that affects polio survivors years after recovery from an initial acute attack of the poliomyelitis virus. Most often, polio survivors start to experience gradual new weakening in muscles that were previously affected by the polio infection, which may result in severe and debilitating limitations.
Essential Tremor is a nerve disorder characterized by uncontrollable shaking, or “tremors,” in different parts and on different sides of the body. Areas affected often include the hands, arms, head, larynx (voice box), tongue, and chin. If ET severely affects your ability to use your hands, you may qualify for LTD disability benefits.
Narcolepsy is a neurological condition characterized by an extreme tendency to fall asleep whenever in relaxing surroundings. Narcoleptics have won disability benefits based on narcolepsy’s functional similarity to a seizure disorder.
Migraine Headache Disorder
Receiving Long Term Disability benefits based on chronic migraines is difficult but not impossible.
Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs)
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is like a stroke, producing similar symptoms, but usually lasting only a few minutes and causing no permanent damage. TIAs by themselves rarely qualify someone for Long Term Disability benefits, but it is possible.
Neurological Disorders Related to the Spine (Part of the CNS)
Spinal Cord Injury or Paralysis
Not all paraplegics and individuals with spinal cord injuries are automatically eligible for Long Term Disability benefits. However, if the claimant’s resulting impairments are severe enough, then the claimant may qualify to receive LTD benefits
Patients suffering limitations in functioning due to advanced syringomyelia may be able to receive disability benefits under an LTD policy.
Those with long-lasting limitations from transverse myelitis may be able to qualify for Long Term disability benefits.
Spinal Cord or Nerve Root Lesions
Nerve root disorders (radiculopathies) are precipitated by acute or chronic pressure on a root in or adjacent to the spinal column. One cause of such pressure may be spinal cord or nerve root lesions. Spinal mass lesions (eg, epidural abscesses and tumors, spinal meningiomas, neurofibromas) may manifest with radicular symptoms instead of the usual symptoms of spinal cord dysfunction.
Subacute Combined Cord Degeneration (Pernicious Anemia)
Subacute combined degeneration is caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency. It mainly affects the spinal cord. Its effects on the brain and the peripheral (body) nerves are the reason for use of the term “combined.” At first, the covering of the nerves (myelin sheath) is damaged. Later, the entire nerve cell is affected.
Brain Tumors (Benign and Malignant),
Primary brain tumors can be either malignant (contain cancer cells) or benign (do not contain cancer cells). A primary brain tumor is a tumor which begins in the brain. If a cancerous tumor which starts elsewhere in the body sends cells which end up growing in the brain, such tumors are then called secondary or metastatic brain tumors. Work activity may be limited due to the most common symptoms of brain tumors, which include headaches; numbness or tingling in the arms or legs; seizures, memory problems; mood and personality changes; balance and walking problems; nausea and vomiting; changes in speech, vision, or hearing.
Traumatic Brain Injury
TBI is a complex injury with a broad spectrum of symptoms and disabilities, which may make one eligible for LTD benefits.
Stroke / Central Nervous System Vascular Accident
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die, which may cause long term impairments and limitations.
Disorders of the Peripheral Nervous System
If you have severe difficulty walking or using your hands due to tremors, partial paralysis, or involuntary movement, you should qualify for LTD benefits.
Persistent Motor Function Disorganization
Persistent Motor Function Disorganization is disorder of nerves, apart from the brain and spinal cord. It often causes weakness, numbness, and pain, usually in the hands and feet, but also may occur in other areas of the body. It can impair sensation, movement, gland or organ function, or other aspects of health, depending on the type of nerve affected, and may limit work activity.
Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease (CMT), also known as Charcot–Marie–Tooth neuropathy, hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy (HMSN) and peroneal muscular atrophy (PMA), is the most commonly inherited neurological disorder. CMT is a genetically and clinically heterogeneous group of inherited disorders of the peripheral nervous system characterised by progressive loss of muscle tissue and touch sensation across various parts of the body.
You may qualify for LTD benefits when myasthenia gravis affects your muscles so much that you can no longer work.
The effects of autonomic dysfunction disorders vary from patient to patient, but you may receive Long Term Disability benefits for disabling symptoms that prevent you from working.
An acoustic neuroma is a tumor that grows on the nerve that connects the ear to the brain. The nerve on which the tumor grows is called the vestibular cochlear nerve, and it affects both hearing and balance.
Long Term disability benefits may be available to those with acoustic neuroma when the claimant’s symptoms are so severe as to keep the claimant from working.
Bell’s Palsy that has caused severe and lasting nerve damage may qualify an LTD applicant for benefits.
Those with chronic, debilitating pain from ilioinguinal neuralgia may qualify for long-term disability benefits.
Shingles and Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN)
Shingles (and even postherpetic neuralgia) alone rarely qualify someone to receive long term disability benefits. However, the symptoms from these medical conditions may be combined with other disorders to show limited work ability.
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)
Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSDS), also known as complex regional pain syndrome, is a rare disorder of the sympathetic nervous system that is characterized by chronic, severe pain. Although a diagnosis of RSD alone will not qualify one for disability, one can win approval if the insurance company finds that the RSD prevents one from working.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
Insurance companies evaluate CRPS the same way as RSD.
While this list is by no means exhaustive, these are the most common neurological problems approved for Long Term Disability benefits.
It is beyond the scope of this page to go into all of the particulars of each disorder and what you must do in order to demonstrate that you have a valid long term disability claim. You will, however, want to keep a journal of all of your symptoms, including the duration, severity, and effect on your daily activities.
The Long Term Disability insurance company will determine whether you qualify for LTD benefits largely based on the documentation of your symptoms. This is especially true when it comes to neurological disorders which are episodic in nature (i.e., medical conditions with symptoms that are not constant, but happen periodically, such as seizures). Because those who suffer from neurological disorders typically cannot observe themselves when they are having an episode, it is important that you have someone who has witnessed your symptoms document their own third party observations concerning the extent and severity of your neurological episodes.
Ideally, your doctor can help you and should be the one to record and report your symptoms. Unfortunately, however, seizures and other neurological problem symptoms seldom occur on a schedule, and it is not always possible for your doctor to record and report first hand knowledge regarding your symptoms. If your doctor has never seen your symptoms, you should still include evidence of statements by those who have observed your symptoms or episodes.
Some neurological problems are easier to diagnose and document for a long term disability claim than others. One of the best ways to make sure that your long term disability claim is approved is to have an experienced LTD lawyer assist you in appealing your claim if your benefits have been denied or terminated.