More than three million Americans are living with Hepatitis C, and some don’t even know they have it. About a quarter of those infected develop symptoms. While Hepatitis C treatments are better than ever, and many patients can be cured of it, getting to that point can involve some challenges.
For some patients, the virus resolves on its own, without treatment. For others,
Hepatitis C, or HCV, is the primary cause for end-stage liver disease resulting in liver transplants. Often the most prominent symptom of hepatitis C is extreme fatigue and weakness. People who test positive for hepatitis C may able to work and act productively to some degree, but are overcome by exhaustion during the day.
Long-lasting, or chronic, hepatitis C often leads to liver failure, cirrhosis and liver cancer. Various approved drugs are used to combat chronic hepatitis C, with more drugs in clinical trials. While medications for HCV can be effective, the treatments themselves can cause serious side effects, and in their own right be severely crippling.
What Causes Hepatitis C Disability?
Prior to 1989, physicians knew only that an acute form of hepatitis was occurring after blood transfusions, and that it was not related to hepatitis A or B. In 1989, this virus was isolated and named Hepatitis C.
Today, hepatitis C is generally associated with drug use involving infected needles. However, health care workers may experience needle sticks with infected blood. Getting tattoos and body piercing in a facility that does not have strict cleanliness and hygiene standards can cause blood exposure that can transmit the virus. Unprotected sex can also be responsible for transmission. . In rare cases, mothers can pass the disease to her child at birth.
Often there are no symptoms during the incubation period, which lasts an average of 45 days (but could be as long as 80.) When symptoms do occur, signs of illness can include mild flu-like symptoms, fatigue, nausea, depression and jaundice that last for two to twelve weeks. Because there are often no symptoms, many people may not realize they are infected.
Hepatitis C testing is done by blood tests to find levels of the HCV antibody, and then verified with additional tests for viral RNA. If you believe you may have been exposed at some point, getting tested is the first step in treatment and eventually ridding yourself of the virus.
Some patients experience symptoms for a period of six months, and the virus clears up on its own. If the symptoms don’t clear up after that time, this long-term infection can lead to cirrhosis and other liver damage, including liver cancer. Alcoholism and HIV can accelerate the process. While a liver transplant can replace the damaged liver, and allow proper functioning to resume, it doesn’t “cure” HCV. Courses of antiviral medications that specifically fight HCV are the next step to eradicate the virus from the body.
Claiming Hepatitis C Disability under Long Term Disability (LTD) Insurance
At a time in your life when you need long term disability benefits, you suddenly find that the insurance company will not award disability compensation to you. Or that because your viral levels have dropped and your blood work is “normal,” you are “cured” and no longer disabled. The medical treatments required to get you to that point also come with a host of side effects that can leave you unable to work, such as fatigue. You may have found that few attorneys agree to take on these difficult cases, and. even fewer are experienced in this area of law.
In our review of denied LTD claims, we see that denials often occur not because the person is not genuinely disabled, but because the claim was deficient and did not contain the evidence required to prove that a disability exists. When the stakes are so high, you must not give up, or think you have lost. You simply need help that an experienced disability law attorney can offer.
We also review many claims that insurance providers deny for reasons that are unfair or unjustified. For example, some insurance companies will discredit subjective symptoms such as fatigue as if they have no value, saying that subjective symptoms cannot be considered in determining disability.
If you have filed a claim for hepatitis C disability and it was denied or underpaid, your first call should be to a disability insurance attorney who deals in this area of law every day, and has significant experience handling insurance companies. If you have been diagnosed with hepatitis C and were wrongly denied LTD insurance coverage, please contact Marc Whitehead & Associates as soon as possible. A major part of proving you are disabled entails connecting the hepatitis C with your inability to do the level of work defined in the insurance policy.
As disability attorneys, we help you establish the disability within the terms of the policy, and accumulate and present the necessary doctor’s reports, medical evidence, and vocational capacity information in a way that demonstrates the true nature and extent of your condition.
Hepatitis C Disability Claims Under Social Security
Hepatitis C is identified in the SSA Listing of Impairments under Digestive System Listing 5.05 Chronic Liver Disease. In most cases, your hepatitis C must be diagnosed as chronic, or long-term, rather than acute, which may clear up within months.
In order to be considered “disabled,” an individual must have an illness or condition that prevents them from working for at least 12 months. However, a diagnosis isn’t enough to apply for and receive Social Security benefits. Your application must comply with strict medical criteria that adequately demonstrates that your condition is, in fact, disabling.
People with HCV can receive benefits from one of two programs:
- Supplemental Security Income, (SSI), a need-based program that examines both your medical condition and your financial situation. If you have limited assets and income, and meet the medical requirements, you may qualify for SSI. Some states will automatically enroll you in Medicaid after 24 months of disability.
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), for workers who earned enough “work credits” to qualify by paying taxes into the system. Medicare enrollment may also be automatic in some states with SSDI after 24 months.
Your physician is your advocate for receiving benefits, by examining your medical records and help you discover whether or not you can qualify. He or she can also help by documenting your case history, symptoms and limitations.
If your claim was denied by Social Security, this does not necessarily mean you do not deserve benefits. Don’t abandon your claim, even if it has been denied more than once. Instead, pick up the phone and contact our office for an appointment. The first thing our firm will do is evaluate your case to determine what needs to be proven for you to win your claim.
Our attorneys will examine the reasons for denial, the legal and medical issues of your case, as well as your ability to earn a living. We are able to appeal the denial of Social Security claims at all levels of the appeals process. Whether you need to have your claim reconsidered, or you need to appear in a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), before the Appeals Council, or through the final level of appeal, a lawsuit in federal court, we’re ready to represent you and work to overturn denials with records and evidence to prove your case.
Denied Veterans’ Claims for Hepatitis C Disability
Thousands of veterans have been infected with Hepatitis C during their service to our country, many of whom served as medics, nurses and doctors. The battlefield and other military conditions heighten the possibility for the transfer of the virus.
The Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes viral hepatitis and HCV in the VA schedule for rating disabilities. Hepatitis C is listed under the Section for The Digestive System.
Because the disease can remain “silent” in the body for so long, many military men and women exposed to the virus are unaware they have it. Veterans who served in the decades before HCV was discovered may not have been diagnosed until much later. Therefore, it’s difficult to prove that the infection was service-connected. In order to show the connection, you’ll need to meet these requirements:
- Have a current HCV diagnosis. While the VA is required to test you, a diagnosis from a private physician is also suggested
- Demonstrate that your HCV is service connected. As a blood –borne disease, you must show that during your time in service, you received:
- Blood transfusion
- Tattoos (if your doctor believes this is a factor)
- Shared any item that could carry HCV-infected blood, such as a toothbrush, razor, or other personal care item
- Other blood exposure or contact
Also helpful to your case is a statement from a private physician (i.e., hepatologist or gastroenterologist) states, in his or her opinion, your HCV directly resulted from your time in the service.
Unlike some other conditions, veterans suffering with hepatitis C may not be able to establish what the VA refers to as “continuity of symptomatology,” or a pattern of treatment that began while the veteran was in service, and which continued consistently after they left the service. For these and other reasons, we have seen many difficulties arise in veterans’ claims for hepatitis C disability.
We are accredited Veteran’s claim attorneys, with significant experience and understanding of the challenges involved in properly preparing and appealing veterans’ claims. We welcome your call to discuss how we can help you establish service connection, or assist you in any other way to appeal and win your denied claim for hepatitis C disability.
We Defend Unfairly Denied Disability Claims
To qualify for and obtain disability benefits for hepatitis C from Social Security, the Veterans Administration, or a disability insurance plan, you need to prove that your condition is serious enough to prevent you from working and functioning normally.
Ultimately, it is the disability insurance company or the government program that decides if you are disabled, not your doctor.
Our attorneys represent hepatitis C disability claims, and know the hardships that arise from this disease. If your claim for hepatitis disability benefits has been turned down by your insurance company, Social Security, or the Veterans Administration, do not give up. Call us and ask one of our skilled disability lawyers about your claim now.
Our attorneys represent hepatitis C disability claims for insurance plans, SSDI, and Veterans benefits. If you need help getting disability for Hepatitis C, do not delay. Call our office in Houston, TX at 800-562-9830. We can help you wherever you live in the US. Don’t wait another minute—call us today.