Autoimmune Disease and Disability Insurance: A Claimant’s Guide
Dealing with autoimmune disease can feel like you’re fighting a battle no one can see. Conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and others can silently cause life-changing symptoms that go unnoticed by the people around you. At Bryant Legal Group, we help clients get short-term and long-term disability benefits for these misunderstood conditions.To learn more about autoimmune disease and disability insurance, keep reading.
Autoimmune Disease Is More Common Than You Think
More than 23.5 million people have autoimmune disease diagnoses. An autoimmune disease occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and structures in your body. This can cause a variety of symptoms, ranging from mild to life-threatening.
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There are more than 80 different types of autoimmune disease. While some are very rare, others are incredibly common, like the following:
A systemic autoimmune disease, lupus causes your antibodies to harm multiple tissues and body systems. While the most common symptom of lupus is a facial rash, it also causes fatigue, fever, joint pain, organ damage, skin lesions, and chest pain.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) covers a series of conditions where your autoimmune system attacks your gastrointestinal tract, causing inflammation and other symptoms. Common IBD-related diagnoses include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
If you have multiple sclerosis, your immune system damages your nerves’ myelin, the protective coating that helps them transmit messages. MS can cause numbness, weakness, motor dysfunction, blurred vision, and other issues.
Type 1 Diabetes
Sometimes called juvenile diabetes, this disease causes your immune system to destroy insulin-producing cells in your pancreas. Uncontrolled type 1 diabetes can cause damage to your blood vessels, organs, and nerves.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
When you have rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system damages your joints, causing swelling, pain, redness, stiffness, and contractures.
With Sjögren’s syndrome, your immune system attacks moisture-producing glands in your eyes, mouth, and other body parts. While dry eyes and dry mouth are the most common symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome, it can also damage your joints, nerves, and skin.
Many autoimmune diseases involve periods of remission or stability followed by symptom flare-ups. While some people can control or manage their autoimmune disease with medications, diet, and lifestyle changes, other people’s symptoms are so severe that a stable work life becomes impossible.
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Disability Insurance Companies Don’t Understand Autoimmune Diseases
Most insurance adjusters are relatively unfamiliar with autoimmune diseases. They may encounter many claims focusing on cancer, degenerative disc disease, and heart disease, but autoimmune disease claims are less frequent. To make matters worse, autoimmune disease symptoms can vary dramatically from patient to patient. Many symptoms, such as pain and fatigue, are subjective and don’t show up on an x-ray or CT scan. When faced with these “invisible” conditions, many insurance adjusters are skeptical.
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3 Ways You Can Strengthen Your Autoimmune Disease Disability Claim
To combat this skepticism, it’s in your best interest to submit a well-prepared disability claim with help from an experienced long-term disability (LTD) lawyer. There also are some simple ways you can bolster your autoimmune disease claim. For example:
1. See Your Doctor When You Experience a Flare-Up
If you experience frequent autoimmune disease flares, it’s sometimes tempting to keep your struggle to yourself. Many people decide to self-treat in an attempt to reduce their medical bills—or because they feel embarrassed. However, it’s important that you report your flare-ups and their severity to your doctors.
Insurance adjusters rely heavily on medical records when they process and evaluate disability claims. When you see your doctor, they document your symptoms and their duration. The doctor also reports on your need for medical care. This information can help your physicians create the best possible treatment plan—and their notes can become part of your disability claim’s evidence record.
2. Consider Your Medication Side Effects
In a disability claim, the insurance company typically must consider how your treatment plan impacts your ability to work, and this includes medication side effects. This is particularly important in autoimmune disease claims, since many immune-suppressing medications carry serious side effects, like fatigue, nausea, and a decreased ability to fight off infection.
3. Start Journaling Your Symptoms
You probably don’t realize how much your autoimmune disease impacts your daily activities. You’ve become accustomed to the daily fatigue and the unwanted flare-ups, which means you’ve probably adjusted your routine. As you prepare your disability claim, it’s a good idea to start a journal where you record your daily symptoms and activities. For example, you may want to tally up your naps, rest periods, and other adjustments you make to cope with your symptoms.
This information can help you understand the extent of your limitations and provide you with a greater level of specificity when you’re talking with your doctors or the disability insurance company.
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Bryant Legal Group: We Bring a Sophisticated Approach to Autoimmune Disease Disability Claims
When we assist clients with autoimmune disability claims, our attorneys apply decades of knowledge on their behalf. We take a sophisticated, data-driven approach to autoimmune disability claims by carefully reviewing medical records, consulting with experts, and building compelling claims for benefits.
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