Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive nervous system disorder, with no known cure. The symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease can make it difficult to continue working. For some, it may become impossible to continue working as the condition progresses. If you are living with Parkinson’s Disease and are struggling to keep working as a result of it, you may want to consider filing for long-term disability insurance benefits. However, getting approved for disability benefits for your condition can be challenging, as insurance companies make it difficult to obtain approval. In order to have a better chance of approval, you should work with an experienced disability attorney. They will be able to help you navigate the approval process and file a solid claim. Below, we will discuss important aspects of the long-term disability insurance process for Parkinson’s Disease, and what you may need to do to get the benefits you need.
How Do I Get Approval For Long-Term Disability for Parkinson’s?
Generally, your best bet for approval is to provide all of the necessary documentation and medical evidence needed to prove your disability. However, this is often easier said than done. When living with a debilitating condition such as Parkinson’s disease, it can be challenging to go through all of the legal hoops that the insurance company will ask of you. Because of this, trusting an experienced disability attorney to fight for you can be very important.
The progression of Parkinson’s Disease is often measured based on a few different factors. The insurance company will likely look at these categories to assess your overall condition. These include your:
- Motor functioning
- Cognitive functioning
- And other non-motor symptoms
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological brain disorder that can become progressively worse as time goes on. Meaning that if you are not approved for benefits, an appeal may be needed as your condition worsens. Appeals can be helpful in showing the degradation of your condition to the insurance company if they did not approve your claim at first. When it comes to progressive conditions, this can be an unfortunately common occurrence. However, you should not wait to file a claim. it is always best to act quickly to fight for your benefits when possible.
Motor Functioning Issues with Parkinson’s
Overall, this condition can severely impact your motor functioning, Because of this, it is important to show how your motor deficits limit your capacity to work. Generally, this involves reviewing your medical records to see documentation of your declining motor deficits. Symptoms of declining motor function include:
- Difficulty with walking
- Impaired balance
- Difficulty initiating movements (bradykinesia)
- Difficulty standing
- Involuntary muscle movements (dyskinesia)
- Unstable posture
- Muscle rigidity/stiffness
- Falling episodes
Documentation from your primary care physician on your motor functioning difficulties can help provide evidence of your condition. Further documentation from a specialist, such as your neurologist, can also be helpful. Providing a solid foundation of medical evidence can help convince your insurance company of the severity of your condition.
Cognitive Deficits from Parkinson’s
Parkinson’s disease can affect your cognitive capabilities as well. For many, these cognitive changes can be as debilitating as the motor deficits of the condition. In many cases, these symptoms can limit your capacity to function at work. Common cognitive deficits for this disorder include:
- Poor memory
- Organizational issues
- Difficulty focusing
- Slowed information processing
- Mental fatigue
- Communication issues
- Lowered stress tolerance
- Difficulty articulating thoughts
- Difficulty solving problems
- Other mental health issues
Cognitive deficits can often be difficult to document properly because they are harder to quantify. Because of this, it can be important to seek out more specialized medical care when it comes to these symptoms. A neurologist, neuropsychologist, psychiatrist, and/or psychologist may be able to help. If you are suffering from cognitive deficits or mental health issues on top of your other symptoms, it can be difficult to function on a daily basis. Your long-term disability insurer will want to see how your cognitive deficits prevent you from working. Your neurologist may indicate to them that you process information too slowly to perform analytical tasks productively, for example.
How Do My Fatigue Symptoms Limit my Capacity to Work?
Fatigue symptoms from Parkinson’s can often take a toll on your capacity for work. If your condition causes you to lack the stamina for your job, you will not be able to produce work efficiently. If you are too fatigued to commute to work, your productivity will suffer. Documentation from your doctors will be able to show if you are suffering from chronic fatigue to the point of limiting your productivity. For example, if you are unable to perform the physical or cognitive demands of your job as a result of your low stamina and fatigue. Excessive breaks and absences from work as a result of your fatigue can also affect your ability to work.
Fatigue is difficult for insurance companies to quantify, Because of this, input from your doctors and other medical providers can be vital. An attending physician’s statement can be especially important in providing a doctor’s opinion on the state of your fatigue.
Non-Motor Physical Symptoms
Non-motor physical symptoms are those that affect other systems of the body, rather than physical movement. Parkinson’s disease can cause a variety of different autonomic nervous system issues. It can also cause vision impairment and other complications. These symptoms should not be overlooked, as they contribute to your disability as a whole. It is important to provide evidence of these symptoms to your disability insurance company so that they get a full picture of how your condition affects your daily life. Non-motor physical symptoms may include:
- Blurring vision
- Double Vision
- Frequent urination
- Urinary incontinence
- Excessive salivation
- Difficulty sleeping
- Orthostatic hypertension
In addition to the above symptoms, you may experience others as a result of medication side effects. Be sure to report any symptoms you experience to your doctors. You may need to see specialists for the side effects you experience. If you do, consider adding their reports to your long-term disability claim. For example, your cardiologist may not want you to sit at your desk for too long without breaks, as it can affect your orthostatic hypertension.
Objective Medical Evidence Through Testing
Objective medical evidence through testing can be an important part of your disability claim. For Parkinson’s disease, your disability attorney may suggest that you take a Functional Capacity Evaluation and/or a Neuropsychological Evaluation. Both can provide helpful and quantifiable data regarding the severity of your symptoms. Both tests also provide “validity testing,” which helps show that the individual was putting in their maximum effort. This helps further legitimize the data from the examinations.
A Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) is a series of tests that can measure your physical limitations, as well as fatigue. The FCE can provide data on how your Parkinson’s hinders your physical capabilities. For some, a 2-day FCE may be recommended. This can be helpful for showing the level of fatigue your condition causes.
A Neuropsychological Evaluation can help prove the extent of your cognitive or psychological disability as a result of your condition. Generally, the test is given by a trained psychologist or neuropsychologist. They will help guide you through the test and review the results of your examination.
Appropriate Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease
For any claim, the long-term disability insurer will want to see that you are seeking “appropriate treatment” for your condition. This usually means following the recommendations of doctors, taking medication, following up on appointments, etc. Even if your symptoms are stable, the insurance agency will want to see that you are going to doctor’s appointments as recommended. If you are not following the recommended treatment plan, your insurance company may terminate your benefits for “non-compliance.”
Most often, Parkinson’s disease is treated with a combination of medications and therapies. If needed, surgical intervention may be recommended. However, these treatments are generally to relieve and/or manage symptoms. The most potent treatment for this condition is Levodopa, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation. It is usually the first-line drug for the management of motor symptoms. Often given in pill form, the drug acts as a precursor to dopamine, which can help control the bradykinetic symptoms of the condition. Studies have shown it to be one of the most effective treatments for this disorder since it was introduced in the 1960s.
Physical therapy may be recommended for muscle strengthening and other motor functions. Treatments for cognitive symptoms may include brain stimulation, implants, and more. Overall, studies have shown that increased dopamine production can be vital in the management of this condition as a whole.