Applying for disability benefits for Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS can be your only chance of being able to live a full and active life when living with your condition.
Though IBS is a very common illness among Canadians, it is generally misunderstood as a simple gut problem. So, employers might not allow you any accommodations at work to help ease your pain.
This article will discuss how you can win disability benefits for IBS in Canada through techniques that are guaranteed to give you the best chances. This article is part of our series looking at disability benefits and medical conditions.
Disability from Irritable Bowel Syndrome: You Are Not Alone
At present, millions of Canadians are suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and thousands more get diagnosed with the condition every year. It is also believed that at least 20% of the population will be affected by the disorder at one point in their lives, usually between their 20s and 30s. Women are also more likely to suffer from IBS than men.
IBS can be identified by a set of symptoms including abdominal pain, stomach cramps, and changes in bowel habits. It affects the digestive system, especially the large intestine. There are four types of IBS classified according to the occurrence of diarrhea, constipation, both, or neither. They are termed as follows:
- diarrhea-predominant or IBS-D
- constipation-predominant or IBS-C
- alternating stool pattern or IBS-A
A fifth classification, known as postinfectious IBS or IBS-PI, is applied to cases where IBS developed after a period of infectious illness.
Living with IBS is difficult because of its unpredictable nature. It can strike at any time due to a range of triggers. As such, it is a debilitating condition that can severely impact the way you live. Thus, those who are suffering from IBS might also have poor emotional health.
There is no definite cure for IBS. The most you can do is follow your doctor’s advice regarding dietary restrictions, lifestyle changes, and medication that will help manage your symptoms. However, taking care of your wellbeing can be challenging when you are under a lot of pressure at work and worrying about other aspects of your life. Thus, applying for disability benefits is the next practical and logical step for you.
Types of Disability Benefits for IBS in Canada
Once you have decided to claim disability benefits for IBS, it is good to know what kinds of disability benefits are available to Canadian workers. The two types are the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) granted by the government and Long-Term Disability Insurance granted by private insurance companies.
CPP Disability Benefits for IBS
The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) is managed by Service Canada under the Department of Employment and Social Development. It is the pension program of the Federal Government of Canada, so it is mandatory for your employer to deduct contributions from your salary. Aside from your retirement pension, you can also claim disability benefits through the CPP so long as you are a recent contributor and became disabled before retirement age. It is also imperative that your IBS is considered as a “severe and prolonged” disability. You should be able to present evidence of this in your application including any applicable medical documents.
Benefits from the CPP include monthly payments to you and your dependent children. This will allow you to leave work for a significant period of time to focus on your treatment and ease any financial burdens brought about by your condition.
The common mistake that most people make when applying for CPP disability benefits is that they only do the “bare minimum.” This entails submitting all the required documents, completely filling up the forms, and following every prescription of Service Canada to a T. While that may already seem like you put a lot of hard work into your application, it is not enough. The secret to winning disability benefits is to go beyond doing the bare minimum.
Long-Term Disability Insurance Benefits for IBS
Canadian workers are also likely to have disability insurance as part of their employee benefits. You should take a look at whether or not your policy includes long-term disability insurance benefits, which usually comes in the form of employment insurance (EI), monthly payments, and paid sick leave. These types of benefits are often not available under short-term insurance plans that are cheaper.
You should also distinguish if your disability benefits will be claimed through non-profit disability plans. This applies to those working for public sector organizations. This type of plan involves complex procedures and requires that you seek the help of a disability benefits lawyer.
For self-employed individuals, you will have to buy a policy from an insurance company yourself. You are not insured as part of a group as is the case with employees of a company.
But regardless of what type of long-term insurance you have, you need to review the terms of your insurance policy to see if your disability from IBS falls under the prescribed definition of “disability.” Because IBS as a disability does not have any obvious physical manifestations, unlike blindness or paraplegia, the insurance officer reviewing your application might not find your situation grave enough to warrant any benefits. To someone who does not have a full understanding of what IBS is, sitting at your desk while you have stomach cramps might not seem that big of a deal.
When trying to win disability insurance benefits, you should first comprehend how insurance companies could deny the claims of people who are truly struggling with their condition. Just like in claiming CPP benefits, it is best to go beyond doing the “bare minimum” and opt for our winning method instead.
Challenges of Applying for Disability Benefits for IBS
1. IBS on its own might not be enough
Though you might consider IBS to be your primary problem, it is still important to include other disabling conditions in your application. This will help strengthen your claim so that even if your history of IBS does not persuade the reviewing officer to grant you any benefits, your other conditions might. Illnesses that are often linked to IBS include anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain.
2. There are arbitrary time limits on disability payments
Insurance companies can terminate your disability benefits without prior notice. This could come within months or even just weeks after your claim was approved. It is common practice in the industry, though it is highly unethical. The issue with this is that IBS is a lifelong illness with no absolute cure. Just when you seem to be completely fine, it could quickly flare up again. Your insurance company might take a look at your social media posts or ask for an update from your doctor and conclude that because your symptoms have disappeared, then you must be “cured” from IBS. At that point, they can quickly stop giving your benefits even without notifying you or giving you a chance to explain.
3. Employers are expected to comply with unreasonable accommodations
Insurance companies believe that employers should adjust to accommodate their employees who are suffering from IBS. Some of these accommodations are unreasonable as they might be too expensive to implement, disrupt the normal flow of work, and contribute to an overall poor performance of the organization. While it could be reasonable to allow flexible working hours for an employee with IBS, it might be impractical to build a new restroom close to that worker’s area to shorten the time of any bathroom breaks. This places you in a tough position trying to deal with the demands of both your insurance company and employer.
Have you been denied disability benefits for IBS?
It is not unusual for people with legitimate disabilities to be denied disability benefits from either the CPP or insurance companies. You might think that you have done everything right, but the officers from these institutions are more than adept at looking for holes in your application or finding inexplicable reasons not to give you any benefits.
For CPP disability benefits claims, Service Canada is the agency responsible for approvals and rejections. Once your application is rejected, you can take a look at the reasons why you were not approved and try for a reconsideration appeal. Claims that were rejected a second time can be appealed to the administrative law court of the Social Security Tribunal. Take note that our “winning claim” strategy can be used at any level of appeal
It is also important to understand that even after you were approved CPP benefits, your insurance company can still deny your claim for long-term insurance benefits. This is because insurance companies can dedicate a lot of time and resources to proving that you should not receive any benefits. After all, they are running businesses that thrive on profit, and any approved claim is a loss on their part.
Nonetheless, even if you received rejection after rejection, there might still be hope for you. Perhaps you should be looking at a change of strategy if your current one is not working.
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