Can I Qualify for Huntington's Disease Disability Benefits?
Huntington's disease is a rare genetic condition that causes a breakdown of the nerve cells in the brain. The disease usually manifests itself in middle age, but it can develop in younger people as well. Once the symptoms appear, they progress rapidly. Unfortunately, the younger the person is when the disease strikes, the more quickly it progresses.
Below, we explain what you need to know before filing a Huntington's disease disability benefit claim. For more information, contact CJ Henry Law Firm, PLLC today.
Explaining Your Progressive Symptoms
Your insurance company may question why you were able to work prior to your disability claim. Since Huntington's disease is different for everyone, it is important to document the progression of the disease and its symptoms whether they are physical, cognitive, or psychiatric. One approach for tracking progressive symptoms is to create a timeline to illustrate the changes you experience.
- Trouble with balance
- Unsteady gait
- Involuntary muscle movements, such as muscle spasms or jerking
- Trouble swallowing or speaking
- Slow or abnormal eye movements
- Difficulty with concentration and focus
- Disorganized thinking
- Searching for words
- Poor memory
- Behavioral changes
- Loss of energy
- Ruminating thoughts of death
Obtaining Proof of Diagnosis
In addition to documenting the progression of your symptoms, your insurance company will require objective proof of the diagnosis of Huntington's disease. These steps will help you obtain the information you need.
- Have a thorough physical exam, typically performed by a neurologist, which tests for involuntary or abnormal body movements.
- Have a psychological evaluation to identify any abnormalities or changes in behavioral or cognitive function. A neuropsychologist is the best medical professional to conduct this exam.
- There are several types of brain imaging which will detect signs of atrophy of the caudate nuclei and other signs of Huntington's disease. These imaging techniques include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT scan), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and positron emission tomography (PET) scans. By themselves, these tests are not sufficient proof of diagnosis.
- Genetic testing can identify the gene for Huntington's disease. However, genetic testing does not indicate the time of onset.
Regardless of the severity of your symptoms, the insurance company will require proof of diagnosis to approve your disability claim. It is important for you to follow through with all tests and examinations.
Documenting Your Treatment History
Much the same as proof of diagnosis, the insurance company will look for a record of treatments you received. Your physician will provide the treatment that is appropriate for your specific symptoms. Your treatment may include some or all of the following methods.
Your physician may prescribe medication for physical or psychiatric symptoms. Medications such as Xenazine, Haldol, Seroquel, and Keppra will help suppress involuntary movement symptoms. Other medications for psychiatric symptoms include antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers. Many medications used to treat symptoms of Huntington's disease can cause serious side-effects.
Psychotherapy and/or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
This type of therapy may help individuals with behavioral, emotional or cognitive symptoms. The purpose of these therapies is to teach the individual coping skills to deal with the disease as it progresses.
Speech therapy may improve communication abilities especially when the muscles needed for speech become impaired.
Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to help maintain mobility and manage the physical changes as the disease progresses.
Assistive devices can be very helpful at various stages of Huntington's disease. These devices range from walking assistance to special eating utensils and rails for stability in the bathroom and other rooms of your house.
Comply With All Treatment
The insurance company will want to see your treatment plans and they will look at whether or not you have complied with the treatment prescribed by your physician(s). Non-compliance can result in refusal of your claim for Huntington's disease disability benefits. One important note: if you suffer severe side-effects from medication and stop taking it, the insurance company may consider that non-compliance. Your doctor should provide detailed documentation about the severity of the side-effects and why it is ineffective in treating the disease.
Maintain Documentation Even After Approval
If your claim is approved, you will need to provide the insurance company with ongoing proof of disability. Insurance companies may ask hospice or other treatment facilities for updates. After your claim is approved, continue with any treatments prescribed by your medical professional and keep complete records.
If your insurance company sets deadlines for submitting updated information, it's very important that you abide by the deadlines. Your Huntington's disease disability benefits may be discontinued if you do not submit the information they request.
Speak to a Huntington's Disease Disability Benefits Lawyer
If you want to learn more about Huntington's disease disability benefits, we're available to help. Contact CJ Henry Law Firm, PLLC today.