Can You Get Disability Benefits Due to Medication Side Effects?
Yes, you can receive short or long term disability benefits due to medication side effects. In the context of disability insurance claims, “disabled” is typically defined as being unable to perform the material duties of your occupation due to your medical condition. The adverse side effects of your necessary medication(s) may cause serious and ongoing cognitive and/or physical symptoms that stop you from working.
For example, you may be prescribed an antiepileptic medication to prevent seizures. The medication is necessary to control the debilitating symptoms of your epilepsy, but it may cause side effects that affect your functioning in other ways—such as drowsiness, dizziness, and/or muscle tremors. While it is vital to stay on this medication to manage your epilepsy, the side effects could cause short or long term disability in their own right.
However, getting your short or long term disability claim approved by your insurance company will require proving that the side effects of your medication(s) cause symptoms that impede your ability to work. Merely submitting a list of your prescribed medications and self-reporting your symptoms will not be adequate.
In this article, we’ll discuss what medication side effects cause short and long term disability, how to prove short or long term disability due to medication side effects, and how the experienced team at The Maddox Firm can help prove your short or long term disability claim.
What Medication Side Effects Cause Short and Long Term Disability?
Many medications cause side effects that may prevent you from working, even when properly prescribed and overseen by your doctor(s). Adverse medication side effects may be a necessary evil to contend with so you can treat your primary illness or injury. They may create new disabling symptoms or, in combination with your underlying medical condition, cause short or long term disability.
Common medication side effects that cause or contribute to short or long term disability include:
Nausea and vomiting
Drowsiness, fatigue, and/or dizziness
Brain fog and other cognitive impairment
Skin rash or itching
Muscle weakness or tremors
Changes in heart rate or blood pressure
Diarrhea or constipation
Mood changes or depression
Insomnia or other sleep disturbances
Increased risk of bleeding or bruising
Liver or kidney damage
Keep in mind that your medication side effects on their own don’t have to cause disability. Even with treatment, your underlying medical condition and its related symptoms may continue to impact your ability to work. Your medication side effects may be a contributing factor rather than the sole reason for your disability status. If you are filing for short or long term disability due to an underlying medical condition and your medication causes additional disabling symptoms, don’t forget to submit evidence of these side effects to your insurance company. Your insurance company will consider the combined impact of your medical condition and medication side effects.
How Do You Prove Short or Long Term Disability Due to Medication Side Effects?
You must support your short or long term disability claim with sufficient evidence documenting your medication side effects and how they impact your ability to work. Your insurance company will evaluate your claim and make a determination based on the weight of the evidence submitted. Generally speaking, there are two facets to a successful short or long term disability claim: proving your medical disability and proving your inability to work.
Proving Your Medical Disability
Whether your medication side effects qualify you for disability insurance benefits will depend on the nature of your symptoms. Almost any side effects can cause disability if they present with enough severity and frequency. Your insurance company will require you to provide objective medical evidence of your symptoms.
Some medication side effects are easier to prove with objective evidence than others. For instance, if you are prescribed a medication that causes severe itchy skin rashes, you can document this to your insurance company with reports from your doctor’s in-person examinations, skin biopsy results, or even photographic evidence. However, other symptoms are more difficult to obtain evidence of, such as headaches, fatigue, and especially cognitive symptoms such as brain fog and slowed thought processing.
Examples of objective medical evidence of your medication side effects include:
Office visit notes from your doctor: These medical records can document your medication side effects from your doctor’s in-person examinations, such as tremors or muscle weakness.
Liver testing: Elevated liver enzymes or other abnormal liver function test results can indicate liver damage caused by certain medications.
Electrocardiogram (ECG): The ECG results can demonstrate changes or abnormalities that may indicate cardiac toxicity caused by certain medications.
Blood tests: Blood tests can demonstrate electrolyte imbalances or abnormal blood cell counts that may indicate side effects of certain medications.
Skin biopsy results: Biopsy results can indicate drug-induced skin reactions or rashes caused by medications.
Imaging tests: Imaging such as CT scans or MRIs can reveal structural changes or abnormalities in organs or tissues caused by certain medications.
Neuropsychological Evaluation: A neuropsychological evaluation can provide objective documentation of any cognitive deficits caused by your medication side effects.
Functional Capacity Evaluation: A functional capacity evaluation can provide objective documentation of any physical deficits, including muscle weakness or tremors, caused by your medication side effects.
Proving Your Inability to Work
The second component of your short or long term disability is proving your inability to work. Oftentimes people make the mistake of believing that being “disabled” requires your condition to leave you bedbound and completely nonfunctional. However, disability insurance companies typically have less of a threshold to disability benefits compared to the Social Security Administration. Most disability insurance policies will only require that you prove your medical condition (and including the side effects of medications) impair you from working in your own occupation.
For example, if you work as a project manager for a marketing firm, your job may be sedentary and require little physical activity. You likely spend most of your workday at a desk working on a computer. However, your job may have high-level cognitive demands. You must be able to intensely focus for extended periods of time, multitask, meet strict deadlines, analyze information, and communicate efficiently and effectively with team members and clients, among other duties. If your medication causes symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, and dizziness, you may suffer from cognitive impairment that leaves you struggling to meet the demands of your occupation. Even “minor” cognitive impairment may disable you from working in your own occupation.
So, how do you prove your medication side effects prevent you from working? Your insurance company likely does not understand the ins-and-outs of your job role and the level of mental acuity it requires. You will need to submit vocational evidence to your insurance company that explains your job role, occupational functions, and how your medication side effects prevent you from meeting your work demands in detail.
Examples of vocational evidence to submit to your insurance company in support of your short or long term disability claim include:
An official job description from your employer
A personal affidavit outlining your education, training and work history, as well as your day-to-day tasks (both physical and cognitive)
A report from a vocational expert that provides an in-depth assessment of your occupation and associated duties, and an opinion on how your medical condition affects your ability to carry out your job role
How Can The Maddox Firm Help Prove My Short or Long Term Disability Claim?
Before filing a short or long term disability insurance claim, you should speak with an ERISA attorney who can provide guidance on how to successfully file for benefits. The experienced team at The Maddox Firm has helped hundreds of clients prove their disability due to medication side effects. Here are a few ways The Maddox Firm can help prove your short or long term disability claim:
The Maddox Firm examines your disability insurance policy. Your insurance policy is key to successfully filing for short or long term disability benefits. The language in these policies can be complex and hard to make sense of if you are not familiar with the terms. The Maddox Firm will examine your policy to determine your insurance company’s definition of disability, the elimination period, a potential future change in definition, any pre-existing condition clauses, and other important terms that affect how you proceed with your claim.
The Maddox Firm gathers and analyzes all of your medical and vocational evidence. The Maddox Firm will request and acquire your medical records from your treating physicians, coordinate with your employer to obtain an official job description, and review your existing evidence to determine any gaps, inconsistencies, or inaccuracies. We know what level of evidence your insurance company will expect to approve your disability claim. After reviewing your existing evidence, we can strategize what additional evidence should be obtained so your claim has the highest chance of approval.
The Maddox Firm will help you obtain additional evidence. There are several opportunities to obtain additional evidence supporting your disability claim that The Maddox Firm will help you with, whether it’s recommending you for additional testing (such as a neuropsychological evaluation that can assess your cognitive impairment due to your medication side effects), coordinating with your doctor for a supplemental statement detailing your condition, symptoms, and inability to work, or referring you to a trusted vocational expert who can proffer a detailed report as evidence of your disability. This additional evidence can address any weaknesses in your claim to make your case for benefits as airtight as possible.
The Maddox Firm will handle an appeal or litigation on your behalf. If your disability claim has already been denied, or your benefits are terminated, The Maddox Firm can handle your appeal or litigation with your insurance company.
We always recommend speaking with a trusted attorney before filing or appealing a short or long term disability claim. Whether you are looking for assistance in navigating the claims process, appealing a claim denial, or litigating a final adverse decision, The Maddox Firm can help. The team at The Maddox Firm will look over your insurance policy, correspondence from your insurance company, medical records, and any other relevant documentation in order to give you personalized guidance on how we can help you win your short and/or long term disability claim.
Contact us to help you file your claim, appeal, or litigation the right way.