If you have started to apply for long-term disability benefits or are considering it to lift the financial weight off your shoulders, you might already know that you are in for a bumpy ride.
Insurance companies consider Lyme disease an invisible medical condition; diagnosis is difficult and often inaccurate.
In addition, many employers are not familiar with the disease and the profound effect it has on the lives of those suffering from its chronic symptoms. What should be a simple and straightforward application process can turn into a lengthy and difficult ordeal.
A bureaucratic nightmare is the last thing you need when you are trying to cope with a difficult long-term illness. This article will discuss the unique challenge of applying for long-term disability benefits if you are suffering from Lyme disease in Canada. We can help you take first steps towards securing the support that you are entitled to. This article is part of our series looking at medical conditions and disability benefits.
Disability from Lyme Disease: You’re Not Alone
If you are struggling with headaches, fevers, fatigue, heart palpitations or pain in your joints due to a Lyme disease infection, you are experiencing some of the many symptoms of an illness that is as complex as it is elusive. Lyme disease, a systemic disease, can affect your entire body if left untreated.
If you are suffering from the serious long-term effects of Lyme disease, it can make you feel isolated from the rest of the world. But even if at times it feels like you are going through the pain, agony, and uncertainty entirely on your own, it’s crucial to remind yourself that you are not the only one battling the illness.
In fact, the risk of contracting Lyme disease - once limited to parts Ontario - is on the rise in Canada. Lyme-carrying ticks can now be found in all Canadian provinces along the US border. The disease is spreading slowly but steadily across the country, and with more and more reported cases and numerous unreported or misdiagnosed ones, Lyme disease can no longer be brushed off as the dangerous exception. The numbers will continue to rise. Canadian authorities expect up to 10,000 Canadians to be infected annually by 2020.
These are shocking numbers, and they show that you are not alone if you are suffering from Lyme disease. Unfortunately, and as you are probably well aware if you have been battling the illness for years, the support available to you has caught up with these worrying developments yet. Canada’s health and insurance systems are lagging way behind the disease.
One thing I have learned as both a health professional and a disability benefits lawyer in the field is that you have to learn how to play the system to get the support you need to be able to cope with the long-term symptoms of Lyme disease. Of course, getting financial and medical support should be a given in a country like Canada that prides itself to have a progressive health care system. I am hoping that the situation will change in time. But for now, you have to work within certain restraints – and my colleagues and I will do our best to help you.
Misdiagnosis of Lyme Disease Can Cause Delays in Approval of Disability Benefits
Lyme disease is an inflammatory infection caused by tick bites which are spreading the bacteria. If caught early, Lyme disease can be treated with several weeks of antibiotics. Infected patients usually make a quick recovery. But if left untreated for longer periods of time, the disease can progress into a chronic one. Treatment becomes more difficult and diagnosis more unlikely as time passes.
Devastatingly, diagnosis often doesn’t happen in time for the simple antibiotics course to be effective anymore. If you are looking to claim long-term disability benefits for Lyme disease, then you must be all too familiar with the difficulties of diagnosing your illness.
The symptoms of Lyme disease vary. Their cause can easily be mistaken for a different illness. If you had a bull’s-eye rash after the tick bite – supposedly the most reliable and distinct indicator of Lyme disease – then, bizarrely, you might be one of the lucky ones. Many infected people never develop the rash and are not aware a tick has bitten them either. ALS, Arthritis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Multiple Sclerosis are only a few of many illnesses that Lyme disease victims are regularly misdiagnosed with. Symptoms are often not connected to their real cause until it’s too late.
False Negative Tests: A Key Barrier to Winning Disability Benefits for Lyme Disease
Did you falsely test negative for Lyme disease at some point during this exhausting journey? A lot of controversy surrounds the diagnosis when it comes to the tests that ought to reliably detect Lyme disease and give you peace of mind.
Canadian tests are notorious for misdiagnosing the illness, and a great proportion of those affected falsely test negative. Many patients turn to laboratories in the US, especially in California, instead. US tests are capable of detecting more strains of bacteria than their Canadian counterparts.
If you have been struggling to support yourself financially and are turning to disability benefits, then you are probably one of the many sufferers who went undiagnosed for years – and maybe still are. Left unrecognized und thus untreated, Lyme disease turns into a chronic disease with long-term implications for your health and well-being.
If you are struggling with Lyme disease, you never know what the next day will bring. Will you be able to make it out of bed or is the pain going to be too much? You shouldn’t have to worry about how to make it to work on top of that.
Types of Disability Benefits Available in Canada for Lyme Disease
When it comes to claiming long-term disability benefits for lyme disease in Canada, you might be eligible for one of two types of disability benefits if you are a worker. These are the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefits and the long-term disability insurance benefits.
Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Disability for Lyme Disease
The CPP, designed to support you after retirement, also covers disability benefits that start once you become disabled and last until you are 65. After that, these disability benefits are converted into regular pensions. In order to be eligible for the CPP disability benefits, you have to have worked for four out of the past six years and paid payroll taxes. The CPP requires you to prove that your disability is both prolonged and severe, leaving you unable to work.
Long-term Disability Insurance Benefits for Lyme Disease
Group disability insurance policies are the most common type of disability insurances in Canada. If your employer has insured you as part of a group, you are receiving your disability insurance through your job. These group disability insurance policies provide both long-term ad short-term disability benefits.
If you are suffering from a chronic form of Lyme disease, you can apply for the long-term disability benefits if eligible. If successful, these will provide you with monthly income payments during long absences from work to take the financial pressure of you.
Challenges of Applying for Long-term Disability Benefits for Lyme Disease
I’ve already touched on the difficulties of getting a firm diagnosis. Unsurprisingly, this translates directly into how insurance companies and the CPP will handle your disability claim. You’ve probably already guessed, or even experienced yourself, that insurance companies and the CPP disability program aren’t exactly eager to give out disability benefits for an illness such as Lyme disease, which is often treated as if it was “all in the patient’s head”.
Another point to consider are the different stages of Lyme disease. You will have to prove that your illness has progressed into a chronic disease, which doesn’t allow you to lead a normal life anymore. In short, you will have to have to prove that you are legitimately disabled from work.
The nature of the illness and the inadequate testing system don’t make this easy for you. The most difficult challenge is to get an official diagnosis of you are struggling with Lime disease. As I mentioned before, testing in Canada has failed to keep up with scientific developments and improve the screening test to detect more than simply one strain of the bacteria.
Insurance companies will have no qualms to debate you on this and crush your hopes of receiving disability benefits if they can find a hole in your application. Insurance companies have to make a profit, and your disability claim reduces that profit. Therefore, every single claim will be scrutinized and eventually denied if it’s not 100 percent bulletproof.
There is a crucial difference between being disabled and being able to prove your disability. If your doctor agrees with you that you are disabled and will testify for that, this might still not even be nearly enough proof for the CPP or insurance companies.
Insurance companies are notorious to only believe what you can prove, even if your doctor is on your side. They will work to undermine your claim to avoid the payment, acting in their own rational best interest at the expense of you and others suffering from Lyme disease.
Denied Disability Benefits for Lyme Disease? What You Can Do
You’ve filled out the forms and you’ve compiled as much evidence as you could get – and yet, the letter you get in the post a few weeks later is politely denying you the right to disability benefits, effectively forcing you back to work.
This is a tough time, and I know that – I’ve seen it over and over again with my clients. You don’t know what you’ve done wrong, and a rejection can feel like a slap in the face. Being told your condition doesn’t warrant financial support to give you some space to breathe and focus on your recovery adds humiliation and frustration to the chronic pain. Having to force yourself back to work can have devastating consequences for your physical and mental health.
The good news is that you don’t have to simply accept that your rightful claims have been denied. You can appeal the insurance company's decision instead. I have years of experience with disability benefit claims, including many cases of Lyme disease. I know what you are going through, and I’m confident that I can help you. You have a choice. You don’t have to let insurance companies get away with denying you the support you are entitled to by law.
If you would like to learn about alternatives if your claim is denied and inform yourself about the appeal process, you can take a look at my books, which you can order for free and will help you consider all your options.
Still Feeling Unsure About Your Disability Claim? Sometimes a quick call with us can answer your concerns and help you move forward with confidence. Call us now at 888-732-0470for a free consultation or