The Doctor’s Corner: 3 Exciting New Developments

Several new advances in treatment and testing have provided hope to the sufferers of several different medical conditions who are all too familiar with disability insurance. We often discuss conditions such as chronic back pain, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and many other conditions that routinely leave patients unable to perform the material and substantial duties of their occupation. Fortunately, every day we get more and better treatments to relieve these debilitating conditions. As research continues and makes advances, some people who were previously permanently totally disabled may be able to find relief and recovery. As we’ve done in the past, today’s post is going to focus on some advances that are particularly relevant to claimants receiving disability benefits.

Surprising research on the effectiveness of steroid shots for lower back pain: Currently, epidural steroid injections are one of the most common non-surgical treatment for lower back pain. However, new analysis by researchers at John Back painHopkins has shown that these steroid injections may be unnecessary. Their analysis shows that injections of saline and local anesthetic (such as Lidocaine) into the space around the spinal cord are as effective in relieving pain as steroid injections. Steroid injections have become increasingly controversial due to the debate between the usefulness of the treatment weighed against the side effects caused by these powerful chemicals. The side effects of an epidural steroid injection include raising blood sugar levels in diabetic patients, slowing wound healing, and an exacerbation of bone disease in older women. In addition, the number of steroid shots a patient may receive per year is limited, and there is always a risk of contamination leading to diseases such as fungal meningitis. While researchers admit that a larger study is needed before recommending that patients stop receiving epidural steroid injections, this is a good step towards reducing the side effects and risks of treatment of lower back pain.

New success in blocking the progression of Type 1 Diabetes: Using a drug originally marketed to treat psoriasis, researchers have been able to effectively block the progression of type 1 diabetes. A multi-center study has shown that patients receiving injections of the drug Alefacept were producing the same amount of insulin one year later as opposed to the placebo group, which saw their insulin production drop as is expected in cases of type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes cannot be reversed or cured with current treatment, and the long-term complications include stroke, circulatory problems in extremities, heart disease, and visual impairments. This experimental treatment was also well-tolerated by the group, experiencing no serious adverse events during the study. The results of this study lend to the efficacy of the drug protocol, which will lead to larger population studies and possibly a new and better weapon in the arsenal against diabetes.

Dietary supplement may be able to reverse Alzheimer’s disease: In a small but intriguing study, researchers have been able to reverse the brain deterioration in Alzheimer’s patients using an extract consisting of aloe vera and several other key nutrients. The extract had few side effects and improved cognitive function in 46% of the patients, including several who were able to drastically reverse the symptoms of the disease. After 9 months of receiving the aloe verasupplement, nearly half of the patients scored significantly higher on a cognitive examination, saw improved immune function, and averaged a 377% increase in stem cell production. This study examined patients across the spectrum of Alzheimer’s, from the severely impaired to those who had been recently diagnosed with the disease. Researchers hope that this study will lead to a larger-scale test that will enable a new treatment protocol for this horrible disease.

Although these treatments provide hope for claimants suffering from these conditions, they are still far from being considered appropriate care for the conditions by the insurance companies. Until these treatments and others like it are vetted further and become approved and accepted by the medical community, it’s important for claimants to continue the courses of treatment recommended by the attending physicians. As time goes on, we will continue to find cures for previously incurable conditions and help many of the affected return to their jobs and live normal lives again. Until then, it’s important to protect your rights and make sure you receive the disability benefits you deserve while you can’t work.

If you have any questions about your disability claim, or would like more information, please visit our website to sign up for a free consultation or call us toll-free at (855) 828-4100.

Bringing Your Vision-Based Disability Claim Into Focus, Part 2

Today, we’re going to finish our blog series on vision-based disability claims. Last week, we covered Glaucoma and how individuals suffering from this condition can make sure they get the benefits they deserve. The second half of this series focuses on a couple of lesser known conditions that can also affect the quality of life of sufferers and prevent them from continuing in their occupations. If you suffer from one of the these conditions, following the tips below may help you get the benefits you deserve.

Macular Degeneration

maculardegenAge-related macular degeneration is a condition which usually affects individuals over the age of 50, although rare cases have been reported in younger patients. Due to damage to the retina, macular degeneration can cause loss of vision in the center of your vision field, called the macula. This central loss of vision makes it difficult to do such activities as reading or recognizing faces, although enough peripheral vision is often present to allow the patient to participate in activities of daily life. The initial symptom is often yellow deposits, called drusen, in the retina. The larger and more prevalent the drusen are in the eye, the more likely an individual is to develop macular degeneration. Although it affects the central vision, macular degeneration doesn’t usually lead to complete blindness. The macula compromises only 2% of the retina, leaving the remaining 98% of the vision field unaffected. However, almost 50% of the visual cortex is devoted to processing macular information. In addition, losing central vision is extremely detrimental to basic visual tasks – reading is almost impossible and the loss of contrast sensitivity makes it more difficult to differentiate between colors, contours, and shadows.

There are several tests to determine if you have macular degeneration. These tests measure the presence and size of several different objects in the eye to tell if a patient has the symptoms of the disease. If these issues are present, then there are several different vision tests that can confirm the diagnosis. Once the diagnosis has been determined, the treatment usually consists of injection directly into the eye on a monthly or bimonthly basis. There is no permanent cure for macular degeneration at this time, so controlling the disease is the best choice at this time. In addition to the injections, adaptive devices such as special eyeglass lenses, computer screen readers, and accessible publishing options for books can make the daily life of sufferers easier.

There are several issues that insureds may face when filing a disability claim resulting from macular degeneration. The main issue is the fact that patients can still use their peripheral vision to see certain objects and continue basic daily life activities. Claims examiners can twist this ability into an argument that the insured is still able to perform their job duties. In cases where the insurance company uses surveillance,  the activities on video can be taken out of context if the insured is going into public and completing tasks that may require some vision, but not the detailed abilities that a healthy macula provides. Anyone who is applying for disability benefits based upon macular degeneration should make sure to show how their job functions include tasks that require detailed vision to complete.  Otherwise, this can result in an example of the disconnect between a diagnosis and a disability, discussed in one of our prior blog posts.

Retinitis Pigmentosa

retinitis pigmentosaRetinitis pigmentosa is an inherited, degenerative eye disease that can cause severe vision impairment and often leads to blindness. It’s a very unpredictable disease, with some sufferers exhibiting symptoms from birth while others may not notice the condition until much later in life. It can also cause tunnel vision, night blindness, and a loss of central vision. Retinitis pigmentosa is caused by abnormalities in the retina, centered in either the photoreceptors or retinal pigment epithelium. There are no visual symptoms of the disease and sufferers must constantly adapt to less and less vision, eventually causing major issues with the activities of daily living.

Testing for retinitis pigmentosa relies on documentation showing the continual loss of photoreceptor function through visual field testing. In addition, DNA testing is available to detect the presence of a number of different gene indicators that can give advance warning of the condition. After a patient is diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, there is little they can do. At this time, there is no cure for the condition, although some new treatments hold promise but aren’t yet widely accepted. Using vitamin A supplements can postpone blindness by years in some cases, and a retinal prosthesis is being tested in several European countries with promising results. Many sufferers  of this condition maintain some form of central vision for a period of time. Some insurance companies have delayed (or denied) disability claims on this fact, asserting that claimants are still able to do sedentary work and work in conditions that don’t require seeing in low light. If you’re suffering from this condition, make sure that the diagnosis and evolution of your condition is well documented and substantiates how you’re prevented from performing your job duties even with “reasonable accommodations.”

Losing your vision is a scary though but is a reality for many people. The last thing someone who is losing or lost their normal vision to differentiate between light and shapes should have to worry about is their ability to collect the disability benefits they deserve. Some insurance companies use the uncertainty in many vision conditions to cast doubt on the claim and find reasons to delay or deny paying benefits. They will say that accommodations can be made even when they’re bordering being unreasonable. The ability of many low-vision claimants to continue doing things like going to the store and completing yard work makes insurance companies suspicious and surveillance videos seem like indictments.

If you’re considering filing a disability claim based off of a vision based disability or are being treated unfairly by the insurance company, please visit our website to sign up for a free consultation or call our offices toll-free at (855) 828-4100.

The Doctor’s Corner: 5 Recent Medical Study Developments

There have been several studies released in the past few months that offer promises for better understanding and treatment of several different chronic conditions. Today’s post is going to review some of these advances and how they may affect those with these chronic conditions and how they may impact disability claims.

  • Study Shows Antibiotics May Relieve Chronic Lower Back Pain:  This new study shows that 4 in 10 chronic back pain cases may be caused by bacteria and that 80% of these cases may be successfully treated with antibiotics. antibioticIn this double-blind Danish study, patents were treated with either a placebo or antibiotic regiment 3 times a day for 100 days and then re-evaluated. The placebo group showed no noticeable improvement while patients who received the antibiotics were better able to function after one year with less lower back pain, less leg pain, and fewer days off work due to the condition. These new treatment avenues could help some people who suffer from chronic back pain regain more independence and return to more normal activities.
  • Los Angeles Doctor Develops New Fibromyalgia Test:  Individuals who suffer from Fibromyalgia know the frustration and extended time it often takes to reach a conclusive diagnosis of their condition. A new test developed by Dr. Bruce Gillis in Santa Monica, California is the first blood test able to recognize two blood markers for Fibromyalgia that can be found in the immune system. The test measured the levels of two specific proteins produced by white blood cells: chemokines and cytokines. Patients who suffer from Fibromyalgia also lack the production of these two specialized proteins. This test may be able to offer more definitive evidence, or their holy grail of objective proof, for the insurance company claim examiners and consulting doctors who are dubious and skeptical about any and every disability claim involving Fibromyalgia.
  • Long-Term Intake Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Can Greatly Reduce Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis:  This is a Swedish study of 32,000 women over a 10-year period. In the study, people who ate certain types of fatty fish at least once per week developed rheumatoid arthritis at only half the rate of women who at little or no fish. The researchers behind the study say that the Omega-3 fatty acids present in these fish have an anti-inflammatory effect on the immune system.  Since rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks joints, the anti-inflammatory effects mitigates the body’s inflammation, reducing the pain and cartilage damage caused by arthritis.
  • Study Shows Genetic Relationships Between 5 Major Psychiatric Disorders:  The largest genome-wide study ever conducted on schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has demonstrated that genetic relationships exist among these conditions. The study’s findings show that many of these disorders may be far more connected than manygenome people consider today. The results show that the genetic overlaps are most significant between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. They’re moderate between bipolar disorder and depression, schizophrenia and depression, and depression and ADHD. The lowest correlation of any significance was found between schizophrenia and autism. These correlations will help researchers find new protocols to treat behavioral patterns as opposed to specific conditions, allowing for more precise and patient-specific treatment therapies.
  • New treatment offers relief for Colitis and Chrohn’s disease:  Two studies show that the same treatment may provide relief for sufferers of both Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. These trials took place with nearly 2,000 patients in 34 countries and monitored them for one year of treatment with the intravenous antibody medication, Vedolizumab. This drug works by inhibiting the immune system from releasing cytokines, the same protein coincidentally used as a marker in the new Fibromyalgia test above. The inflammation caused by this protein causes many of the uncomfortable symptoms brought on by these diseases. Not only did the drug work to prevent the symptoms of the conditions but even better more often resulted in remissions. These studies also showed that patients were able to stop using some commonly prescribed drugs and therapies to treat Colitis and Chrohn’s, helping avoid their significant and common side effects such as weight gain, nausea, and headaches. This new treatment gives sufferers the opportunity to regain more of their lives without having to deal with the residual effects of the disease along with the side effects of prescriptions that can prevent claimants from being able to return to work.

As medical research progresses, more sufferers of chronic diseases are able regain their lives and reduce their risks of becoming or remaining permanently disabled. New advances are made every day, and new studies continue to find links that help understand the reasons and factors underlying – and treatments for – many chronic conditions, giving patients and doctors new directions in finding different and more effective treatment protocols for conditions which can be terribly debilitating.

If you are suffering from a chronic condition and need help with your disability insurance claim, please call our firm at (855) 828-4100 or visit our website to sign up for a free consultation.

4 Types of Disability Claims Caused By Car Accidents

While a car accident itself may not be a reason to file a disability claim, many disability claims result from injuries sustained in a crash or other type of accident. While you may not qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance if the injuries don’t totally incapacitate you for more than 12 months, many individual and group long term disability policies cover the inability to work due to these incidents as well as almost all short term disability policies. From back problems to broken bones to “whiplash,” there are many different types of injuries that can result from even seemingly minor vehicle accidents, including some that may not become apparent for an extended period of time. Today’s blog post is going to review some of the different types of injuries that may result from these accidents and how to obtain the disability benefits you deserve while recovering from these injuries. Continue reading

3 Major Questions of a Total and Permanent Disability Claim

While most sufferers of chronic back pain are able to recover and return to work in varying capacities, there are many people who experience such severe and debilitating pain that they will never be able to hold a normal job again. Claimants who suffer from such severe conditions are initially approved for their disability benefits, but this may be just the beginning of a long and winding road for claim investigations that can be opened and reopened for years on end. Insurance companies won’t acknowledge what total and permanent represents and require regular and appropriate care for the conditions causing the pain throughout the duration of the claim and can also require other documents ranging from tax returns to activity logs. Insurance companies can also reopen investigations at any time and restart the review process all over again. If you have been approved for benefits and don’t expect to return to work anytime soon, there are several issues you should consider to help reduce the stress going forward in the claims process.

Three of the most common issues we hear about from claimants in this situation are surveillance, settlements, and what the insurance company considers to be appropriate care for the condition. I will touch on each of these topics as well as a few other key issues prevalent in these types of claims. Continue reading

New Advances in Chronic Pain Treatment

If you are living with chronic pain, you know the stress and suffering that results. Chronic pain research continues and treatments still have a long way to go. However, researchers have made some significant gains in understanding and treating chronic pain in recent years, resulting in a new classes of drugs and treatments to help alleviate pain. Today, I am going to discuss some new therapies to explore how you may be able to reduce your pain and improve your life.   Continue reading

March Madness: Our Elite Eight Blog Posts

What a difference a year makes! Where does the time go?

We’ve been writing articles for this blog for over a year, and we’ve learned as many things from our readers as we hope you’ve learned from us. As our topics have grown and more readers have found us, we wanted to make sure that some of our posts don’t get lost in the noise of the Internet and buried deep away where claimants would less likely be able to find help. In the spirit of the NCAA basketball tournament, we’re going to go through our most popular blog posts as well as highlight some posts that we think include topical, valuable information that may be helpful in your disability claim. Thanks again for reading our blog over the past year and making us one of the top-rated destinations for disability claim advice and help.  While we hope you never have any problems with your conditions or your claim, we’ll continue to be here to read, just in case, for years to come!

Continue reading

The Disconnects Between Diagnosis and Disability

One of the biggest issues our clients face when filing their disability claim is the lack of clear medical opinions explicitly linking their condition to their disabling restrictions and limitations.  Physicians are skilled at diagnosing a disease or illness, but they may not be the best at explaining why the condition is disabling for the claimant.  This can especially be problematic with mental illnesses or other types of invisible disabilities.  Any ambiguities cause increased scrutiny and in-house referrals by claim examiners and are often used as a basis for a disability claim denial.  Helping your doctor connect the dots between your condition and your inability to work smooths the disability claims process and fosters a quicker claim approval with fewer questions.  We’d like to discuss two perspectives to this issue: the claimant’s and the physician’s.  We’re going to discuss what each party can do to make the disability clearer and the claims process smoother.   Continue reading

Protect Yourself Against A Functional Capacity Evaluation

In addition to IME’s (Independent Medical Examinations) insurance companies are also known to use Functional Capacity Evaluations, known as FCE’s, to analyze a claimant’s disability.  These evaluations assess the ability to perform a series of tasks which simulate customary job duties and determine the extent to which the claimant can complete these job duties on a regular basis.  FCE’s can have different focuses and purposes and be referred to as Physical Capacity Evaluations, Work Capacity Evaluations, or Disability Assessments, but they all mean the same thing: the insurance company is attempting to use a biased and flawed evaluation system to challenge the statements of you and your doctor about your ability to return to work.   Continue reading

6 Tips To Keep Your Disability Claim Moving

One of the biggest red flags a claimant can inadvertently create in their disability claim is to move.  While there are many legitimate reasons someone can move, claim examiners have been trained to closely scrutinize a case where a claimant moves.  New sets of arguments and investigative avenues are opened for the insurance company to use against you.  As anyone who’s moved can tell you, moving is difficult at best.  And the last thing someone needs, who is already trying to move while dealing with their disability, are new and additional hassles from their disability insurance company, not to mention the added stress of worrying that their benefits will be delayed or stopped.  If you’re currently applying for or receiving disability benefits, there are several issues we think you should understand as well as a few tips on how to keep the disability claim process moving smoothly during this stressful time.   Continue reading