Applying for disability benefits for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is sometimes your only chance at living a full and active life.
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 Irritable Bowel Syndrome 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
- Is IBS a Disability in Canada?
- Types of Disability Benefits for IBS in Canada
- Challenges of Applying for Disability Benefits for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- How to Win Disability Benefits for Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Canada
- Have you been denied disability benefits for Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
- Next Step – Get Your Free Books
Disability from Irritable Bowel Syndrome: You Are Not Alone
Canada has one of the world’s highest prevalences of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, with an estimated rate of 18% versus 11% globally. It is also believed that at least 30% 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 well-being 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 your next practical and logical step.
Is IBS a Disability in Canada?
Yes. All disability benefits providers in Canada recognize Irritable Bowel Syndrome as a condition that can qualify a person for disability benefits.
However, a diagnosis on its own will not qualify you.
Providers pay benefits to people who can prove their condition prevents them from working. When reviewing claims for IBS, providers focus on the seriousness of your symptoms. They will consider the medical treatment you have had and future treatment plans. They look at how your symptoms affect your ability to work and how hard you tried to stay in the workforce.
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 you. The two main types are the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and long-term disability insurance.
There are also other disability benefits you may qualify for, which include the following:
- Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits
- Workers Compensation
- Veterans Affairs Canada
- Provincial disability benefits
- Disability tax credit
In this section, we are only going to overview CPP disability and long-term disability benefits, as these are the most common disability benefits for IBS. However, check out our article on medical conditions and disability benefits to learn more about the eligibility requirements for the other programs listed.
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 Federal Government of Canada’s pension program, so your employer must 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 “severe and prolonged.” 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 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, filling out 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 come 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 were 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. Sitting at your desk while you have stomach cramps might not seem that big of a deal to someone who does not fully understand what IBS is.
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 Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The following are some of the main challenges people will face when applying for disability for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
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 months or even 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. When you seem completely fine, it could quickly flare up again. Your insurance company might look at your social media posts or ask for an update from your doctor and conclude that because your symptoms have disappeared, you must be “cured” of 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 the 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 puts you in a tough position trying to deal with the demands of your insurance company and employer.
How to Win Disability Benefits for Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Canada
People with IBS have to work extra hard to prove they need and deserve disability benefits. Here are some key things to do throughout the claims process to improve your chances of success with Irritable Bowel Syndrome disability benefits.
Appropriate medical diagnosis and treatment
An official medical diagnosis on its own won’t guarantee benefits; however, it is a critical part of the process. Without a diagnosis, you may find it very difficult to get any type of disability benefits. Furthermore, a lack of an official diagnosis can make it very difficult to establish IBS as the reason behind your difficulties.
As part of the disability claim process, benefits providers will also look at what treatment you have received for IBS and whether that treatment aligns with the accepted standards of treatment for your condition. Not getting the appropriate treatment is one of the most common reasons for a denial of benefits.
Failing to get the proper treatment can happen for two reasons: either your doctor didn’t follow accepted standards for treatment, or you refused to participate in the treatment plan. Even if you and your doctor believe that alternative methods may work better, you have to try the standard treatments to qualify for disability benefits. Otherwise, you leave the door open for someone to say that you could work if you had the right treatment.
Documented treatment plan
When you apply for disability benefits for IBS, you will need to show documentation of your current treatment plan. This includes your former treatment plans and how you intend to move forward with future treatment.
Insurance companies will never approve disability benefits for IBS without a well-documented treatment plan. Your doctor may have a plan, but if it isn’t documented and communicated to the insurance company, then it’s the same as no plan.
Sometimes you can’t get appropriate treatment because you’re waiting for an appointment with a psychiatrist or psychologist. In these situations, you can still be approved for disability benefits if your doctor has a well-documented treatment plan. The plan should include the fact that you’re waiting for a consultation with other specialists. It must also show that you’re doing all other recommended treatments in the meantime.
Medications and side effects
Are you taking medication for your IBS or pursuing any other medically accepted treatment options? Medical treatment for IBS often means using appropriate medications to help limit symptoms. If you aren’t using medication to deal with your IBS symptoms, you may have trouble winning disability benefits.
Evidence of work-related limitations
With an invisible illness like IBS, disability benefits providers place great emphasis on how hard you try to stay at work.
You must go well beyond saying you can’t do your job. You need to show that you asked for help from your employer to stay at work. Such changes could include fewer hours, easier duties, or changing roles within the company.
You need to provide evidence that shows how hard you tried to stay at work. This evidence can include the following:
- Medical records discussing your work attempts
- Employment records that show places you tried to work and all accommodations made
- A written statement from you that details your work efforts
- Signed written statements from your employer or co-workers describing how they observed your struggle to work
If you give strong evidence showing you tried your best to stay at work, you have a good chance of winning benefits. On the other hand, if you have little evidence of your efforts or evidence that you made no effort, then you have no chance of approval.
Medical and employment documents will give you some of the best support for your claim, but the decision-makers need to believe you, too. In legal settings, credibility refers to a person’s trustworthiness or believability.
A decision-maker who finds you trustworthy may rule in your favour — even if you have weak evidence for your claim. And a decision-maker who doesn’t trust you won’t give you the benefit of the doubt in uncertain areas, even with good evidence. Being credible gives you an invisible edge that many people overlook.
- Contradicting medical records or earlier statements
- Making excuses or blaming others for problems
- Criticizing other parties in the claim (even if they deserve it)
- Filing complaints against professionals you see as negative, biased, or unprofessional
- Using aggressive, sarcastic, or confrontational tones in your claim or testimony
- Blocking or stalling reasonable requests for information
- Fighting with doctors over your diagnosis instead of focusing on the disability
- Acting like a medical expert
- Making sure what you say matches the medical records
- Taking responsibility for bad facts or problems with your claim; not blaming others
- Being cooperative and respectful of everyone in the claim
- Accepting expert advice and opinions
- Making good faith efforts to try all reasonable advice, even if you disagree with it
- Obvious efforts to keep working
Have you been denied disability benefits for Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
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 for 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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