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Getting Long-Term Disability (LTD) Benefits for Crohn’s Disease

If you have Crohn’s disease and find yourself missing work due to painful flare ups, you may have to file a long-term disability (LTD) claim to cover your income.  Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease in which inflammation causes irritation and damage to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes the small and large intestines, stomach, esophagus, and even the mouth.  It can lead to severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, weakness or fatigue, and other debilitating symptoms.

Managing your Crohn’s disease can be taxing enough on its own without the added mental pressure of going through the long-term disability process.  The professionals at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick are here to help you if you need assistance filing your claim.  You can contact us today at 800-544-9144 for a free consultation.

Understanding Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease was named after Dr. Burrill B. Crohn for being the first to formally describe and differentiate it from its other inflammatory bowel disease counterpart, ulcerative colitis, which is found in one continuous section of the colon.

Crohn’s disease is identified as inflammation that can be found anywhere in the GI tract, and inflammation does not occur in one continuous location, meaning that patches of healthy, normal intestine can be found among the inflammation.  The inflammation can cause the lining of the intestine to thicken or wear thin, which can create ulcers, obstructions, fissures, and bleeding.  While Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach, esophagus, and the mouth, it most often occurs in the small intestine and colon.

The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unidentified, but it is generally understood to be an immune system response to a foreign bacteria or virus.  The immune system fights the infection, causing the intestine to become inflamed; however, this immune response does not “turn off” as it should once the bacteria has been cleared and inflammation persists.  The immune system may also mistake healthy bacteria as a foreign invader and respond with continued flares of inflammation.

Genetics can increase one’s risk of developing Crohn’s disease.  About 5 to 20 percent of people with Crohn’s disease also have a first-degree relative with the disease, such as a parent or sibling.  While the disease can occur at any age, it most commonly develops between the ages of 15 to 35.

There is currently no cure for Crohn’s disease.  Once it occurs, it is a lifelong illness with periods of remission, if you are able to manage its symptoms.  For some, Crohn’s can cause minimal discomfort with abdominal cramping or diarrhea.  For others, it can lead to severe abdominal pain, fatigue, illness, and malnutrition, and its effects can be challenging and disabling.

Symptoms and Diagnosis for Crohn’s Disease

Symptoms of Crohn’s disease may include:

  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Mouth sores
  • Reduced appetite or weight loss
  • Malnutrition or malabsorption of nutrients

More severe symptoms can include:

  • Skin, eye, or joint inflammation
  • Changes in vision
  • Liver inflammation or complications
  • Kidney stones
  • Anemia
  • Delayed growth or sexual development in youth

Due to overlap with other inflammatory bowel diseases, diagnosing Crohn’s disease may be a lengthy process that can include multiple evaluations.  Testing may begin with a physical evaluation as well as questions about your symptoms, diet, and family medical history.  Further testing may include blood tests and stool samples.  More invasive testing can include a biopsy, in which a sample of tissue from your intestine is removed for testing, or an endoscopy, where a small camera is inserted into your intestine.  It is also possible to capture images of your organs and tissues with an MRI or CT scan.

Treatment for Crohn’s Disease

While Crohn’s disease is not curable, there are treatments that can alleviate its symptoms.  Anti-inflammatory medication is often prescribed, as well as medication that suppresses the immune system.  Often, such medications will be used in combination with each other, helping to reduce symptom flair-ups and give the gastrointestinal tract the time to heal.  Medication, as well as a specialized diet that is tailored to avoid triggering inflammation, can offer relief from Crohn’s disease and keep it in remission.

Unfortunately, as many as half of people with Crohn’s disease will require surgery at some point.  Surgery may become necessary if you stop responding to medications, or if you develop sores, cracks, or intestinal obstructions within your GI tract.  Surgery for Crohn’s disease typically requires the removal of an unhealthy segment of your gastrointestinal tract and the reconnection of the remaining healthy segments.  It may also repair abnormal holes, channels, or sores in the intestine, known as fistulas.  Surgery can alleviate Crohn’s disease for many years; however, the disease typically returns and sometimes requires further surgery.

How Crohn’s Disease Can Impact Your Ability to Work

If you miss work due to Crohn’s disease, you may be able to file for long-term disability benefits. Crohn’s disease can cause major discomfort and pain that can greatly interfere with your occupation. Abdominal pain caused by a Crohn’s disease flair-up can be so severe it renders you unable to sit up, breathe comfortably, or move freely.

Immobility can hinder all professions, physical or sedentary.  Pain and discomfort can also disturb cognitive ability, such as the ability to focus or concentrate on tasks.

While painful, Crohn’s disease can lead to additional complications that affect your overall health, such as malnutrition.  When your organs and intestines are damaged and not functioning correctly they do not absorb the energy and nutrients from food as they should, which can lead to weight loss and nutrient deficiency.  This can lead to physical and cognitive fatigue that can significantly affect your ability to work.  You may find that, due to such complications, you are missing periods of work, arriving late, or having to leave early, all of which can build a case for disability benefits.

Surgery for this disease can also significantly affect your work attendance.  Surgery on your gastrointestinal tract is not a small procedure, and it can take weeks to recover and adjust.  Medications for Crohn’s can also have side effects such as weight gain, inflammation of other organs, and mental effects.  Treatment for Crohn’s disease is often a trial and error process that can be taxing on your body.  That, along with the mental toll of navigating your Crohn’s disease, can be used as evidence to prove your eligibility for a long-term disability claim.

Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick Can Help You with Your Long-Term Disability Claim

The long-term disability professionals at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick can help you with your long-term disability claim for Crohn’s.  We know that trying to manage a chronic illness while filing for long-term disability benefits can be an overwhelming and stressful process.  It can be beneficial to seek the assistance of an experienced attorney so that you can focus on your health while we take care of the LTD claims process for you.

Our attorneys will assist you in gathering evidence and medical records that will prove the disabling effects of your Crohn’s disease.  We will handle interactions with your insurance company and your doctors, acting as a point of contact to ensure all communications are handled smoothly and that the correct information is processed.  Insurance companies can be difficult to work with, and doctors can have busy schedules, but the team at CCK is experienced and can ensure all necessary communication is taken care of in a timely manner.

We know that sometimes medical records are not enough to support your claim on their own.  CCK has a variety of expert contacts, both medical and vocational, who can provide additional evaluations to supplement your medical records.  We can advise you on the types of information you need to acquire from your doctor to make your claim as strong as possible.

We understand how Crohn’s disease can affect your life, and if you are facing an initial claim or appealing a denial of benefits, CCK can help you prove that your illness is deserving of benefits.  Even after you are approved for benefits, CCK can continue to help you provide the necessary updates to your insurance company.  We want to keep the burden of the long-term disability process off your shoulders.

Call Today to Speak with a Member of Our Team

Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick is here to help you every step of the way in the process of seeking long-term disability benefits.  Whether you are submitting an initial claim or are dealing with a denial of benefits, we are available to assist.  For a free consultation with a member of our team, call us today at 800-544-9144.

Long-term Disability Claims Process Overview