Getting Long-Term Disability (LTD) Benefits for Spinal Stenosis
If your livelihood depends on your ability to work, what happens when you develop a debilitating medical condition? The possibility of losing one’s career due to a condition like spinal stenosis is devastating. Long-term disability (LTD) benefits can help such professionals protect their income and their job.
Many professionals spend countless years studying and honing their skills. For example, doctors may spend the better part of a decade studying medicine before getting a practice of their own. Spinal stenosis can make working extremely difficult. Therefore, anyone who suffers from spinal stenosis should consider filing for LTD benefits. However, it is not always easy to file for such benefits.
It can be beneficial to consult an experienced long-term disability lawyer when filing a claim. Call Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick today at (800) 544-9144 for a free consultation concerning your claim.
An Overview of Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis affects a person’s spine. There are spaces within a person’s spine; spinal stenosis is when these spaces narrow. This condition affects most people in the neck and/or lower back. The narrowing of these spinal spaces may cause pain, though it is possible that someone experiences no symptoms at all.
Wear and tear (i.e., osteoarthritis) over time is the most common cause of spinal stenosis. However, there are several potential causes, including:
- Herniated disks
- Bone spurs
- Fractures in the spine
- Arthritis that thickens spinal ligaments
- Cysts and/or tumors
Most of these causes occur over time, which is why most sufferers are above 50 years of age. Even so, this does not mean that a person under 50 cannot get spinal stenosis.
Untreated, spinal stenosis can get worse and cause permanent ailments for the sufferer. These ailments can include numbness, weakness, and/or paralysis. Therefore, it is vital to visit your doctor if you believe you may have spinal stenosis.
Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
There are two main types of spinal stenosis, and each type has its own specific symptoms. Cervical stenosis occurs in the neck, and lumbar stenosis occurs in the lower back. Lumbar stenosis is the most prevalent form of this condition.
The symptoms of spinal stenosis—regardless of type—get worse over time. The severity of the symptoms can vary based on where the condition is located in the spine. Moreover, the more nerves that the spinal stenosis affects, the more severe the symptoms.
The most common symptoms of cervical stenosis include:
- Numbness—most commonly in the arms, legs, hands, and feet
- Pain in the neck
- Issues with walking and keeping balance
- Weakness in the limbs
A person who suffers from cervical stenosis may or may not experience these symptoms right away. Nevertheless, these symptoms can make working a burden.
Likewise, symptoms of lumbar stenosis may include:
- Back pain
- Sciatica pain
- Numbness and tingling in the legs
- No sensation in the feet
- Difficulty to move one’s feet while walking (i.e., foot drop)
- Difficulty controlling one’s bowels or bladder (in severe cases)
- Severe leg pain
As is evident, these symptoms can make working impossible. Moreover, they can disrupt a person’s life in many ways, and, in severe cases, may require immediate medical attention.
How Is Spinal Stenosis Diagnosed?
If you are experiencing any of the abovementioned symptoms, it is necessary to visit your doctor. Your doctor can diagnose spinal stenosis, and this diagnosis can be used as evidence in a long-term disability claim.
When you visit your doctor, they will begin by asking you questions about the symptoms you are experiencing. They will also check your complete medical history. Additionally, your doctor will conduct a physical exam to check for signs of spinal stenosis. These signs may include unusual reflexes or a loss of feeling in your limbs.
Your doctor may also utilize certain imaging tests to better identify the cause of your symptoms. These imaging tests can include:
- X-rays: X-rays can show abnormal bone growths called “spurs” that affect the spinal nerves and narrow the spaces within the spine.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRIs produce images of your spine that can show ligament and disk damage, tumors, and nerve areas experiencing pressure.
- Computerized tomography (CT): A CT test utilizes multiple X-rays. This test produces an image of your spine and may take the place of an MRI.
- CT myelogram: The same as a CT test but with injected contrast dye; your doctor injects this dye into you. The dye gives contrast to the nerves and spinal cord in the imaging to better locate issues.
Other conditions may cause similar symptoms. Your doctor will rule out these other conditions before issuing a spinal stenosis diagnosis.
Spinal Stenosis Treatment
The treatment for spinal stenosis can range from self-care tips all the way to surgery. It depends on the location and severity of the condition. For example, over-the-counter pain relievers, ice packs, heating pads, a healthy diet, and exercise can help with mild spinal stenosis.
However, there are instances in which the symptoms are severe enough to warrant further treatment. Your doctor may prescribe medications for your spinal stenosis. These medications treat the pain associated with your conditions. Medications to relieve pain include ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, anti-seizure medications, and opioids. Suffering from spinal stenosis can affect a person’s mental health, so your physician may prescribe antidepressants too.
Spinal stenosis can make a person inactive. Therefore, your doctor may recommend physical therapy, which can help reduce pain, increase flexibility, and strengthen muscles.
Other treatment options may include:
- Steroid injections, to reduce inflammation.
- Decompression procedures, to remove thickened ligaments.
- Surgery, to relieve pressure in the spine.
Of course, surgery is always the last option. Doctors will only recommend surgery if your spinal stenosis is severe and not responding to other treatment options.
Spinal Stenosis and Your Long-Term Disability Claim
Spinal stenosis has no cure and is a degenerative condition. However, it is possible to live with it by adhering to a proper treatment plan. This does not mitigate the fact that working while suffering from this condition is strenuous. Simple everyday tasks become grueling when your back hurts or your legs are numb. This condition can disrupt both your private and work life.
For example, a dentist that suffers from spinal stenosis will find it difficult to work. They may not be able to use their dental tools with precision if their hands have a loss of feeling. Moreover, standing, bending, twisting, and walking can be laborious. The patients’ health and safety are also a concern in this scenario. Additionally, spinal stenosis symptoms can cause depression and anxiety, leading to reduced cognitive abilities and mistakes at work.
Since most people who suffer from spinal stenosis are over the age of 50, it is possible that many claimants will have decades of experience in their field. Losing the ability to work after such a time is devastating. Long-term disability benefits can help protect a professional’s income.
Challenges With Getting LTD Benefits for Spinal Stenosis
Insurance companies represent one challenge of getting LTD benefits for spinal stenosis. Such companies will look at your policy’s definition of disability. This definition is a crucial part of your policy. To receive long-term disability benefits, you must prove you have a disability as defined by your policy.
ERISA law, which governs group policies, is another challenge you will face if your employer provides you with long-term disability benefits. Under ERISA law, you must submit all evidence by the administrative appeal stage of the claim process. Moreover, you must meet strict deadlines. If you miss a single deadline, the insurance company may use this as grounds for a denial of your claim.
Therefore, it is important to keep a log of your condition and how it affects you. Make sure to maintain an open dialogue with your treating physician. Your physician will have specific insights into your condition. They can provide a specialized report as evidence for your claim. By communicating your symptoms fully with your doctor, they can better represent the severity of your disability for your claim.
How Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick Can Help With Your Claim
Filing a long-term disability claim while you are suffering from spinal stenosis can be a daunting task. The LTD claim and appeal process is complex at times, and it can easily overwhelm someone not familiar with it. Therefore, consulting an experienced long-term disability attorney is beneficial. The LTD team at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick can help with your claim.
First, we will review your long-term disability policy. Often, these policies are hard to understand – they may contain countless exclusions and limitations, legal jargon, and be unnecessarily complex. However, we have years of experience dealing with such policies and know what they mean and how they affect you. Moreover, we will determine the best evidence to collect to prove your disability.
While medical records are usually your primary source of evidence, they should not be your only source of evidence. Supplemental evidence is often necessary to prove your claim. CCK utilizes a wide variety of such evidence. This evidence can include specialized reports from your treating physician, official witness reports, and outside experts’ opinions.
The long-term disability lawyers at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick have over 30 years of collective experience dealing with insurance companies. Insurance companies do not want to pay claims and therefore do not handle every claim fairly. We know how they operate and will ensure that they treat your claim neutrally.
Further, once your insurer approves your claim, they may continue to ask for information. If you miss this information, they may terminate your benefits. We act as a point of contact during the claim and appeal process. We can even continue to act as a point of contact even after you receive your benefits.
Call Us Today for a Free Consultation
Regardless of whether you are filing an initial claim or are filing an appeal, we can help. We believe that you should not have to worry about filing for LTD benefits. Instead, you should be focusing on what matters most: your health.
We can track all deadlines, adhere to all rules, and collect the best evidence. Additionally, we can handle all correspondence with your insurance company and represent you in court, should the need arise. In short, we are ready to help you win an approval of your long-term disability benefits.
Call us today at (800) 544-9144 for a free consultation. We will look at your claim and see how we may be able to help.
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