Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome can cause serious Symptoms that affect the Ability to Work

Do you suffer from chronic abdominal pain, including stomach cramps, diarrhea, bloating, gas and constipation? Have these symptoms disrupted your life and daily activities, and affected your work? Then you may be suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, also known as IBS, and you may be entitled to disability benefits due to your condition.

According to the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation (CDHF), Canada has one of the highest rates of IBS in the world. Approximately 5 million Canadians suffer with the illness each year. Statistics also show that at least 20 percent of Canadians are estimated to struggle with the symptoms of IBS at one point in their lives, with the majority being in their 20’s and 30’s. Women are also more likely to suffer from IBS than men.

Irritable bowel syndrome is medically defined as a disorder that affects the digestive system, particularly the large intestine and causes changes in the sufferer’s bowel habits. While some IBS sufferers are able to control their symptoms by making changes to their diet, lifestyle and stress levels, those with a more severe case of the illness require regular medication and sometimes even counseling due to the anxiety and depression that can develop.

Irritable bowel syndrome has five main classifications, as follows:

  • IBS-D, which is when the sufferer’s condition is predominantly diarrhea;
  • IBS-C, in which constipation is the predominant symptom;
  • IBS-A, where the sufferer experiences alternating stool patterns;
  • pain predominant IBS; and
  • IBS-PI or post-infection IBS which occurs when an individual develops IBS symptoms as a result of a previous infectious illness.

There are many challenges for individuals suffering from IBS, the most significant being that there is no specific cure for it. Also, it is an unpredictable illness that can occur at varying moments in an individual’s life. With regard to making a claim for disability benefits, particularly long-term disability benefits, one of the biggest challenges for sufferers of IBS, is convincing an insurer that the condition is serious enough to warrant such benefits.

One can easily imagine that irritable bowel syndrome can make it very difficult to function in many jobs, particularly occupations that do not provide flexibility for leaving a workstation at a moment’s notice for an unscheduled bathroom break, or whenever the sufferer’s condition worsens.  Symptoms, such as the uncontrollable need to have a bowel movement, stomach pain and cramps, substantially limit the type of job that a person may be able to perform.

Long-term disability (LTD) benefits are the most common type of disability benefits claimed by persons suffering from a chronic illness, such as IBS, that ultimately affects their ability to perform their work duties.  Long-term disability coverage may be purchased directly by individuals from an insurance provider, but many people have access to LTD benefits through a group disability insurance plan, particularly an employer-provided plan. Employer group plans often also provide short-term disability benefits which are immediately available to employees (or after a very short waiting period) who are unable to work due to their illness or injury.  For eligible claimants (i.e. those whose IBS symptoms prevent them from performing the required tasks of their current job), LTD benefits begin when short-term benefits run out.  After two years, the claimant will continue to be eligible for LTD benefits if they show that their symptoms prevent them from doing any work for which they are reasonably suited.

In your application for LTD benefits, you will need to include medical evidence from your treating physician that substantiates that you are suffering from IBS.  This evidence may include lab results or imaging results, and opinion/consultation documentation from your doctor.  Your doctor’s evidence must include his/her opinion on how long you are able to sit, walk or stand, how often (and likely) you are to need bathroom breaks, whether you require rest periods, and other medical opinion evidence that is relevant to your ability to work.  It is a good idea to record your day-to-day experiences with respect to the effect of the condition on your daily activities, as this is additional information your doctor can use in making a prognosis.

If your claim for LTD benefits arising from irritable bowel syndrome was denied, talk to an experienced disability claims lawyer. At Kotak Personal Injury Law, we have a dedicated team of personal injury lawyers well-versed in the legal requirements and processes associated with long-term disability claims.  We understand the many challenges claimants face — emotional, physical and financial — when they are suffering with a serious condition, unable to work and earn an income, and then find that their insurer is unwilling to recognize their legitimate claim for LTD benefits.  You can be assured that we will apply our expert knowledge and resources in seeking successful resolution of your LTD claim as quickly as possible.