Seizures and Disability Insurance: A Claimant’s Guide

Feb 11, 2020 | Blog |

About 3.4 million people live with epilepsy in the United States, which makes recurrent seizures our nation’s fourth most common neurological disorder. But even though epilepsy isn’t rare, living with the disorder can make you feel like no one understands its profound impact on your ability to live and work.

At Bryant Legal Group, we want to help. Our team of experienced disability insurance attorneys guides people with epilepsy and other seizure disorders through their complex insurance claims. Keep reading to learn more about epilepsy-based insurance claims and find out your options for benefits.

What Are Seizures and What Causes Them?

A seizure occurs when the neurons in your body malfunction, sending a flood of electrical activity to your brain. Many factors can trigger a seizure, including fevers, anxiety, flashing lights, chemical imbalances, and sleep deprivation.

Your neurologists and other doctors may describe your seizures in several ways:

  • Epileptic: Brain dysfunction occasionally causes abnormal electrical impulses in the brain, leading to a seizure. A single seizure isn’t considered epilepsy — there must a pattern of repeated seizures.
  • Non-epileptic: Your seizures are caused by a physical condition like stress or fever, not abnormal brain activity.
  • Pseudoseizures: Seizure-like symptoms that are due to mental health conditions rather than electrical discharges in the brain.
  • Tonic-clonic or grand mal: During a seizure, your body stiffens, convulses, and goes through involuntary jerking movements.
  • Nonmotor: Your seizures do not involve muscle contractions or convulsions.

While doctors can sometimes identify a seizure’s cause, the triggers and causes remain unknown in almost half of all seizure cases.

If you suffer from seizures, you probably go through several stages during an episode. First, you may experience an aura. Then, during your seizure, you may exhibit a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Muscle stiffening and involuntary convulsions
  • Loss of consciousness and awareness
  • Inability to speak
  • Sensory changes, such as an unpleasant taste or smell that no one else experiences

Finally, you’ll enter a postictal period while your body recovers. Even though the actual seizure may only last for a minute, many sufferers report weakness, fatigue, and headaches for hours or days afterward.

Struggling With Side Effects From Your Seizure Medications? You’re Not Alone

If you’ve suffered two or more seizures, there’s a good chance you’re already on anti-seizure medications. While these medications may help control your seizures, they can have unwanted side effects like fatigue, nausea, balance issues, and irritability.

When you file for disability insurance benefits, the adjuster must consider these negative medication-related side effects in addition to your seizure-related limitations. However, you’ll need evidence documenting every health challenge you’re facing. To strengthen your claim, you need to discuss your medication side effects and any other concerns with your doctors, who will note them in your medical records and then suggest options such as alternative treatments that may help.

RELATED: “Self-Reported” Symptoms; How to Fight Back With Medical Evidence

When Should I File for Disability Insurance Benefits for My Seizures?

Deciding to file for disability insurance benefits is a personal decision. Only you and your doctors can determine when it’s time to step away from your professional life. Your decision will depend on factors such as:

  • The frequency and severity of your seizures
  • The amount of time you need to recover from a seizure
  • Whether your work involves driving, unprotected heights, operating industrial equipment, or other hazards
  • Whether stress or other factors trigger your seizures
  • Whether your seizure medication effectively controls your seizures
  • Whether you have driving restrictions from your doctors

3 Essential Things Your LTD Attorney Needs to Know About Your Seizures

Every disability insurance claim is fact-specific, and your long-term disability (LTD) lawyer will need detailed information about your medical history, training and qualifications, and disability insurance plan.

As you prepare for your initial appointment with a disability insurance lawyer, you should collect your thoughts as well as any available documents, and you should be ready for questions about the following issues.

1. The Frequency and Duration of Your Seizures

If you’ve had a single seizure, it may be difficult to prove you can’t work. However, everyone experiences seizures and epilepsy differently, so your lawyer will want to know many details about how your seizures impact your life.

At your initial appointment, anticipate questions about:

  • The number of seizures you’ve had
  • What seems to trigger a seizure
  • How long it takes to recover from a seizure, including your postictal symptoms
  • The severity of your seizures and postictal symptoms
  • Side effects from your medications
  • How you’ve changed your lifestyle and routine due to your seizures or epilepsy

If you have a disability or seizure journal, bring it with you to the appointment. You should also consider bringing a loved one who has witnessed your seizures if they can provide additional insight and details.

2. Whether Your Seizures Impact Your Mental Health or Cognition

People who experience regular seizures may also begin to experience depression or problems with decision-making, memory, attention, and concentration. This is especially true if you experience temporal lobe seizures since the temporal lobe area of the brain controls memory and emotions.

Sometimes, your mental fogginess will only occur during your postictal period. However, severe recurring seizures combined with the effects of anti-seizure medications can constantly alter your memory, mood, and mental functioning.

We understand it can be hard to admit you’re not as sharp mentally as you used to be. However, if your memory and cognitive limitations make it difficult to work, your lawyer needs to know about these issues.

3. How Consistently You Take Your Medications

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, up to 50% of seizure sufferers do not take their anti-seizure medications as prescribed. Even if you have understandable reasons for not taking your medications, not taking your medications can both increase seizure activity and damage your disability insurance claim. If you’ve struggled with medication compliance, you need to talk with your lawyer about it.

People have various reasons for not taking medications, and many of them are understandable. Sometimes, people struggle to pay for expensive prescriptions. Other people stop taking medication because they experience severe side effects. If we know the reasons why your medication levels haven’t always been consistent, our team may be able to address the issue proactively.

RELATED: Learn How a Disability Journal Can Help Your Disability Claim

Bryant Legal Group: Helping People With Seizures Get the Disability Insurance Benefits They Deserve

At Bryant Legal Group, we’ve been helping people with seizures and epilepsy get their disability insurance benefits for decades. If you’re getting ready to file a long-term disability claim or appeal, we can help you understand your legal options. To schedule your free, no-risk consultation with an experienced disability lawyer, contact us at (312) 561-3010 or fill out our online contact form

 

References

Holland, K., Sullivan, D. (2018, July 23). Epilepsy: Fact, statistics, and you. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/epilepsy/facts-statistics-infographic#1

Holmes, G. (2015, June). Cognitive impairment in epilepsy: The role of network abnormalities. Epileptic Disorders 17(2): 101-116. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5410366/

Schachter, S. (2008, May 10). Noncompliance. Epilepsy Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/professionals/refractory-seizures/potentially-remediable-causes/noncompliance

 

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

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