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Can I get Long-Term Disability if suffer from Degenerative Disc Disease?

By Matt Lalande in Long-Term Disability on October 19, 2020

Can I get Long-Term Disability if suffer from Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative disc disease is no doubt, in some circumstances, a terribly disabling condition. Although disc degeneration disease is asymptomatic with many, others suffer greatly on a daily basis with weakness, numbness and severe pain that can interfere with a person’s daily activities and work. Degenerative disc disease can start with or without damage to the spine, and can lead to serious osteoarthritis and other permanent neurological issues.  If you work in either a physical job or more sedentary type employment, the brutal pain of degenerative disc disease can be enough to stop you from performing both the mental and/or physical duties of your job. If you cannot work due to degenerative disc disease, you may qualify for long-term, disability benefits so long as you meet the definition of total disability as set out in your long-term disability policy.

What is disc degeneration disease?

Disc degeneration disease is a very common cause of both neck pain and low back pain. It refers to either damage or wear and tear on the spinal discs in between your vertebrae which in turn cause pain. The rubbery discs are fibrocartilage based structures which gives your spine the flexibility and support that it needs. It can also be compared to a load bearing shock absorber in between your vertebral bones.  As a person ages or suffers back trauma, their spine can to show signs of wear and tear as the spongy discs are either damaged, shrivelled or they can dry out. These changes could relate to arthritic conditions, disc herniation and/or spinal stenosis.

The disc can be compared to looking at a tire. There is an outside in and inside. The outside is called the annulus in the inside is called the nucleus. A disc becomes herniated when a fragment of the nucleus is pushed out of the annulus, or surrounding barrier, into the spinal canal through either a tear or a rupture and compress surrounding nerves.

The nucleus can also dry out and shrink. The nucleus is made of approximately 85% water. As you age, your discs slowly lose water and flexibility, which constrain the annulus, thus leading to disc herniation. Your discs can also get thinner as you age which in turn, reduces the size of the shock absorber between your vertebral bones, leading to neural compression.

If you suffered this degeneration disease in your lower back, you may very well feel severe pain, which may or may not radiate in one or both of your legs and buttocks. Sciatica is a condition caused by either herniated discs or bone spurs, or severely degenerative discs. Sciatica causes a shooting pain that begins in the lower back, radiates through the buttock down the back of the leg.

Chronic sciatica may require surgery.

Can you qualify for long-term disability if you suffer from degenerative disc disease?

Perhaps but whether or not you can qualify for long term disability needs to be looked at on a case by case basis.

Often times degenerative disc disease in itself will not prevent a person from working. With many people who suffer disc degeneration disease, their pain will often flare up with activity and then either remain as a low-grade pain or go away completely. This makes it difficult for sedentary workers to make the argument that they cannot work and should collect long-term disability.

However, in some cases, particularly with multilevel disc disease, either traumatic or degenerative, the condition can be so severely disabling that is can prevent a person from working at any gainful occupation for shich they are reasonably suited. The condition can be quite devastating in some cases, especially once a person has undergone surgery such as a multi-level laminectomy or discectomy. Although the severity of the pain might be lessened, the spine never returns to its normal state.

If the pain is severe enough, a person might require epidural injections  – which places steroids into the epidural areas of the spine to reduce pain and inflammation. This typically provides short-term pain relief, but if required on a regular and consistent or lifelong basis, then a person’s ability to work can be significantly impaired by the pain in between injections times.

The question of whether or not you can qualify for long-term disability refers to whether or not you suffer from a total disability as set out in your disability policy. Total disability is typically defined in long-term disability policies in two ways. The first is that your disc degeneration would have to be so disabling that it prevents you from performing the substantial duties of your own occupation.

If, after 24 months, your degenerative disc disease continues to be chronically disabling such that it prevents you from performing the duties of any occupation for which you may be reasonably suited by way of education training or experience – you may then qualify for long-term disability until the age of 65.

Remember it’s not enough that you say that you are in pain. Most disability policies require you to be participating to the full extent you are able, in a treatment program and following medical protocol.

Therefore, if you suffer from disc degeneration that is disabling, or that is multilevel,or which that radiates into your buttocks and thighs, is worse with sitting or bending, lifting and twisting or you have undergone multilevel disc degeneration surgery, you may qualify for long-term disability benefits so long as you remain totally disabled as per your policy definition.

Have you been denied long-term disability benefits?

If you been denied long-term disability please call us toll-free at 1-844-Lalande, or local in the Hamilton/Toronto area at 905-333-8888. Matt Lalande is highly experienced with disability law and is recovered millions in wrongfully denied disability benefits for claimants all over Ontario.  We have been practicing disability law since 2003, and we are ready to help answer your questions today.

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