Depending on your age — and the age of your friends, family, and colleagues — you probably know someone with back problems. Having pain, stiffness, and soreness in your back can be incredibly debilitating. One type of back problem, known as degenerative disc disease, is very common.
According to a report from 2018, one-third of people aged 40 to 59 have moderate to severe degenerative disc disease. When a person’s discs become damaged, particularly when they are relatively young, it can make it incredibly difficult to perform daily activities — including going to work. In these situations, long-term disability (LTD) benefits may be available to provide financial stability.
If you are suffering from degenerative disc disease and are unable to work as a result, you may be eligible for LTD benefits under the terms of your insurance policy. Working with a skilled New Jersey disability lawyer can increase the likelihood that you will have a favorable outcome in your disability claim.
Understanding Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease is a medical condition that occurs when the discs in a person’s spine get damaged over time. This can cause substantial pain, as well as numbness, tingling, and weakness in the extremities. It most often affects people in their 30’s or 40’s who are otherwise healthy and active.
The spine is composed of a number of parts. The discs act as shock absorbers between the bones of the spine. Their purpose is to resist force and provide the back with flexibility.
Spinal discs are composed of two parts: a tough outer layer (the annulus fibrosis) and a soft, jellylike core (the nucleus pulposus). These discs have a very low blood supply. As a result, if a disc is injured, it cannot repair itself.
Disc degeneration has a number of possible causes, including age-related wear and tear. In addition, disc degeneration disease may be caused by:
- The disc drying out over time
- Daily activities and sports
- Injuries that can cause swelling, soreness, and instability
A person with disc degeneration disease may experience a range of symptoms, include:
- Pain that is worse when sitting
- Pain that is worse when bending, lifting or twisting
- Periods of severe pain that come and go
- Pain in the low back, buttocks, and thighs, or the neck, radiating to the arms and hands
- Numbness and tingling in the extremities
- Weakness in the leg muscles or foot drop
- Feeling better when walking or running as opposed to sitting or standing
- Feeling better after changing positions frequently or laying down
This condition is diagnosed based on a description of symptoms, a medical history, physical examination, and testing. In particular, an MRI can show damage to the discs. However, the results of an MRI must be confirmed through an analysis of symptoms and other factors by a treating physician.
There are a number of possible treatment options for degenerative disc disease. These include prescription medication to treat pain and the use of a back brace. When necessary, an artificial disc replacement surgery or other types of surgical intervention may be done to relieve pain and restore normal function.
Can You Qualify for Long-Term Disability Benefits If You Have Degenerative Disc Disease?
Long-term disability (LTD) benefits are an important part of any financial plan. These benefits provide a monthly payment of between 50 and 60% of your salary in the event that you are unable to work due to a disability. If you are approved for LTD benefits, you may receive them for 24 months, until your disability is resolved, or to retirement age, depending on the terms of your policy. There is typically a waiting period of 180 days to 6 months before you can apply for LTD benefits.
To qualify for LTD benefits, you will need to demonstrate that (1) you have been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease; and (2) your diagnosis leaves you unable to work. Specifically, you will need to tie your condition or to your inability to work.
There are many ways that degenerative disc disease may prevent you from working. For example, you may experience a great deal of pain when sitting or standing for extended periods of time. In this situation, you won’t be able to continue performing your usual job — like sitting at a desk all day or even standing at a taller (standing) desk.
For some people, degenerative disc disease makes it difficult to bend down and pick things up, or even to walk due to pain and weakness in their legs. Others may have difficulty sleeping because they cannot stay in one position for too long. With an LTD claim, it is important to document exactly how these issues prevent you from working. Extreme fatigue may make it difficult to concentrate or stay awake, for example, which means that it is unsafe for you to drive or operate heavy machinery.
Insurance companies often deny LTD claims or delay approving them for an extended period of time. If your claim is denied, a disability attorney can file an appeal on your behalf. The first level of appeal will be with your insurance company; if that appeal is denied, then your lawyer may file a lawsuit in state or federal court.
Contact a New Jersey Disability Benefits Law Firm Today
Working may seem impossible if you have degenerative disc disease. If you find yourself unable to perform the basic functions of your job because of extreme back pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness, you may be able to file a claim for LTD benefits. These benefits can be critical support in a time when you cannot work — and need to focus on your health instead of your bills.
At Bross & Frankel, our team of experienced attorneys is committed to helping people who are unable to work due to a disability. We offer compassionate, knowledgeable representation throughout the process. To learn more or to schedule a free disability claim review, call our office today at (856) 795-8880 or contact us online.