Parkinson’s Disease and Disability Insurance: A Claimant’s Guide

Mar 19, 2020 | Blog |

Approximately 60,000 Americans receive a Parkinson’s disease (PD) diagnosis each year. In 2016, there were around 30,000 people in Illinois living with PD, and studies show that the prevalence of the disease is increasing throughout the United States.

As a progressive neurodegenerative disease, PD is a chronic condition that worsens over time. While you may be able to work for a few years after the onset of your condition, you will inevitably require both life care and financial help once your condition progresses to later stages.

Even if you already have long-term disability insurance (LTD), you may need help filing your claim or an appeal if the insurance company denies your claim. At Bryant Legal Group, we help people with PD secure the benefits they need by strengthening their LTD claims.

In this article, we’ll discuss the symptoms of PD and explain how the condition will affect both your ability to work and your disability benefits claim.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease vary from person to person and can include much more than tremors. PD often affects a person’s ability to move as well as other physical and psychological factors. Doctors typically classify the symptoms of PD into two categories: movement-related and non-movement-related.

Movement-Related Symptoms

  • Tremors, often in the hands while at rest
  • Slowed movement (bradykinesia), characterized by
    • Shuffled gait
    • Decreased facial expressions
    • Muscle freeze-ups
    • Fine-motor control difficulty
  • Limb rigidity
  • Balance and coordination issues

Non-Movement Symptoms

  • Apathy
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Sleep disorders
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Loss of sense of smell

Working With Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive condition, so even if you can still work at your current job or a different job for a few years after onset, your ability to continue working will likely decrease over time. You may not be able to hold the same position or work in the same capacity as before.

Managing a job with PD can be extremely challenging, even in the early stages.

Early-Stage Parkinson’s Disease

Hand tremors can make typing or holding tools difficult. As the tremors worsen, everyday work-related tasks can become impossible. Difficulty moving or slowed movements remain mild at this stage, but the symptoms can still impact your ability to react quickly in emergencies or even walk around your workplace with ease.

Mid- and Late-Stage Parkinson’s Disease

In the later stages of Parkinson’s disease, balance and movement issues worsen, which can lead to falls and other mishaps. Eventually, walking and other daily activities become unmanageable without assistance. At this point, working becomes impossible, even if cognitive abilities have not degenerated fully.

Once you’ve reached the point of being unable to hold any position due to your symptoms, you’ll need the financial support of a long-term disability benefits claim.

Long-Term Disability Claims for Parkinson’s Disease

LTD benefits provide a percentage of your pre-disability income, which means the insurance company could have to pay up to 80% of your income for as long as you remain disabled. Usually, you can receive LTD benefits until you can return to work or reach retirement age, whichever happens first.

Most cases of PD show up in people age 50 or older. However, up to 10% of people with Parkinson’s start demonstrating symptoms before age 50.

Because many claimants with Parkinson’s Disease will never return to work and may be relatively young, these claims can be costly for insurance companies. To reduce costs, insurance companies approach PD claims with skepticism.

Common Reasons for Insurers to Deny Your Long-Term Disability Claim

Insurance companies will use a variety of excuses to deny your LTD claim for Parkinson’s disease. They may attempt to dispute the:

  • Subjective impact on your life: In the early to mid-stages of PD, it may be complicated to prove the impact that mild to moderate tremors and movement disabilities have on your ability to work. Insurers may deny your claim by saying that your symptoms are subjective and do not qualify.
  • Progression of your symptoms: If you were able to work with PD for several years after your diagnosis, insurers may claim you can’t prove that your condition has deteriorated to the point where you can no longer work.
  • Diagnoses and medical support: There are currently no tests or scans that can definitively diagnose Parkinson’s Disease. Without extensive medical records and documentation, insurers may dispute the diagnosis itself.

How to File a Long-Term Disability Claim or Appeal for Parkinson’s Disease

When handling an LTD claim for Parkinson’s disease, you’ll need two crucial elements to strengthen your claim or appeal a denial: extensive evidence and an experienced LTD attorney.

Evidence Is Crucial for Your Parkinson’s Disease Benefits Claim

With extensive documentation to support your diagnoses and symptoms, you can build a claim that’s hard to dispute. Evidence can include anything that demonstrates your physical, behavioral, or cognitive symptoms, such as:

  • Test results and medical records
  • Letters and reports from your physician
  • Confirmation from specialists
  • Statements from family, friends, or coworkers

The Importance of an Attorney for Your Parkinson’s Disease Benefits Claim

Submitting a strong claim the first time is always easier than trying to appeal a denied claim. Working with an experienced long-term disability attorney can increase the strength of your claim and help you find holes in the insurance company’s arguments.

An experienced attorney can:

  • Analyze your policy, the insurance company’s claim file, and other plan-related documents to determine your benefits and find errors.
  • Communicate with physicians and specialists to collect the information you need to prove the extent, stage, and symptoms of your condition.
  • Collect and organize all evidence to build the strongest possible case for your claim or appeal.

For claims filed under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), working with an experienced LTD attorney is even more critical. ERISA claims involve strict filing rules and standards, and failure to file properly will result in an invalid claim. And if your ERISA claim gets denied, you only have one chance to submit more evidence and appeal. An experienced LTD attorney can help you navigate these complicated claims and make sure everything gets filed on time and accurately.

Contact the Experienced LTD Attorneys at Bryant Legal Group for Help With a Parkinson’s Disease Disability Claim

The attorneys at Bryant Legal Group have experience handling long-term disability claims involving Parkinson’s Disease. We work diligently to ensure that our clients receive the disability benefits they deserve. If you are filing a claim for LTD benefits or have received a denial letter from your insurance company, speak with one of our attorneys today to learn how to proceed.

Call (312) 634-6415 or send us a message online to schedule your free consultation to discuss your claim and your options.

References

Elkouzi, A. (Ed.). (2017). What is Parkinson’s? Parkinson’s Foundation. https://www.parkinson.org/understanding-parkinsons/what-is-parkinsons

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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