In the first installment of a two-part series, Ottawa personal injury lawyer Najma Rashid discusses how those with ailments that can’t be seen on medical imaging have difficulties with their long-term disability claims.
Long-term disability (LTD) claimants with so-called “invisible disabilities” face unique challenges navigating the claims approval process with their insurers, Ottawa personal injury lawyer Najma Rashid tells AdvocateDaily.com.
With almost two decades of experience advising clients in LTD matters, Rashid, partner with Howard Yegendorf & Associates, has noticed a steady growth in denials involving claimants with chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, workplace stress, and various mental health conditions.
“The one thing they share is that they suffer from disabilities that you can’t capture on an X-ray or MRI scan,” she explains. “It’s a huge component of my LTD practice and for others who practise in the area.
“These types of claims are also evident in both the case law and the number of general inquiries we get from people looking for information and help with their policy,” she adds.
Rashid says diagnostic difficulties presented by so-called “invisible” disabilities have made insurers particularly wary of those claims.
“Although the symptoms are considered legitimate by mental health practitioners and other medical professionals, their diagnoses are dependent on reporting from the patient,” she says. “Insurers consider them more subjective, and from the insurer’s perspective, these disabilities carry less credibility than a spinal cord injury, or something else more concrete that you can see clearly in medical imaging.”
Rashid says the stigma and skepticism associated with invisible injuries are gradually lifting, thanks to the increasing prevalence of mental illness in society at large, and the willingness of high-profile individuals to document their own experiences with conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders or post-traumatic stress.
Last year, pop star and actress Lady Gaga opened up in a Netflix documentary about her ongoing struggle with fibromyalgia, which caused her to cancel a major tour. The condition manifests itself in pain and tenderness in deep tissue and muscles, leading to bouts of fatigue, interrupted sleep and mental lethargy in many sufferers, and Rashid says the invisible nature of the syndrome and other chronic pain conditions means many sufferers have trouble being believed.
“Diagnoses are becoming more precise and there is less shame around these conditions, but it still presents difficulties,” Rashid says.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this mini-series, when Ottawa personal injury lawyer Najma Rashid will explain what people with invisible injuries can do to strengthen their LTD claims.