Can I Receive ALS Disability Benefits?
ALS is a devastating neurodegenerative disease that affects the body's nervous system. It attacks the nerve cells that control your body's voluntary muscles. Even though the disease is debilitating and there is no cure, insurance companies still require adequate documentation to support your disability claim. Because many symptoms are subjective, you'll have to demonstrate how you are disabled due to Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of ALS?
The early symptoms of ALS and its rate of progression are different for everyone. Symptoms may begin in the arms, hands, or legs and spread to other areas of the body. Spasms, muscle twitches, and weakness are early signs of ALS. They may seem insignificant at first. Signs may include the following:
- Trouble doing daily activities including walking
- Episodes of clumsiness
- Weakness in your hands, feet, legs, and ankles
- Trouble holding things in your hands
- Muscle cramps, twitching, and stiffness in your arms, shoulders, or tongue
- Difficulty standing up straight and holding up your head
- Outbursts of uncontrollable laughing or crying
- Changes in cognitive functioning
- Slurred speech or trouble projecting your voice
- Trouble chewing or swallowing
Progressive ALS Symptoms
As the disease progresses, more of your muscles are affected and it will be more difficult to perform routine, daily tasks. Symptoms will become more prominent as the disease progresses:
- Severe muscle weakness
- Loss of muscle mass
- Extreme difficulty chewing and swallowing
- Trouble speaking or breathing
How ALS Is Diagnosed
Even though ALS is a serious and fatal disease, your insurance company will still require sufficient proof of your ALS disability and how it prevents you from working. While there is no single test to diagnose ALS, there are a series of tests to confirm your diagnosis.
A thin electrode needle is inserted into your muscles and measures its electrical activity.
Nerve Conduction Study (NCS)
Two electrodes are placed on the skin over the nerve or muscle and a tiny shock is administered to measure the size and the speed of the nerve signal.
Spinal Tap (Lumbar Puncture)
A sample of the fluid around your spinal cord and brain is collected using a thin needle inserted into the spinal canal and lab-tested for white blood cells, sugars, and proteins.
Blood and Urine Tests
These two tests allow doctors to eliminate other causes of your disease.
A small piece of muscle tissue is removed and sent for lab analysis. This procedure might be used to detect a muscle disease other than ALS.
Types of Treatment for ALS
When your insurance company evaluates your claim for ALS disability benefits, they want to see what treatments you're receiving and if you are complying with your doctor's instructions. It's imperative that you comply with prescribed treatment because the insurance company may reject your claim if you are non-compliant. Treatments for ALS focus on relieving symptoms, preventing complications, and slowing the disease's progression.
Riluzole (Rilutek) and Edaravone (Radicava) are designed to slow the progress of the disease. Other medications ease symptoms such as cramps, spasms, fatigue, pain, and depression.
Breathing Care / Therapy
If you have difficulty breathing, your doctor may suggest a breathing tube and a respirator.
A physical therapist can help you manage pain and maintain your mobility and overall health.
Occupational therapy helps you meet the demands of daily living. Adaptive equipment or assistive technologies may be part of this treatment.
Speech therapy, nutritional support, and psychological support are also options to help you at every stage of your illness.
Substantiating Your ALS Disability Benefits Claim
Since the nature of ALS leads to long-term disability, you may think your insurance company is familiar with the disease, its causes, and prognosis. That isn't always the case, however.
Increase your chances of approval for your ALS disability benefits by explaining your symptoms and how your symptoms affect your ability to work. For example, twitching, muscle cramps, and weakness in your hands may make it impossible to use a computer or write. If you experience weakness in your legs and feet, standing and walking may be difficult or you may stumble risking injury. Intense fatigue or pain may prevent you from working for a full day.
Be sure your doctor also specifies how your symptoms prevent you from working and limits your abilities. Your doctor's report will carry weight with the insurance company.