Liver Disease and Long Term Disability: What You Need to Know

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Stress and concern, businessman holding his head at officeLiver disease is a serious medical condition that affects millions, presenting a variety of symptoms and complications that can significantly impact your physical and cognitive functioning.  If you have liver disease, you may be considering your options for long term disability (“LTD”).  Whether you are looking to file, appeal, or litigate an LTD claim, it is essential to understand how disability insurance benefits work and what evidence can prove to your insurer that your liver disease symptoms prevent you from working.

Below we’ll address key questions surrounding liver disease and eligibility for long term disability insurance benefits.


Can I receive long term disability for liver disease?

Yes, you can receive long term disability benefits for liver disease, provided you meet the specific terms of your disability policy.  Liver disease includes various conditions such as:

    • Alcoholic liver disease
    • Viral hepatitis (including hepatitis B and C)
    • Genetic disorders like hemochromatosis and Wilson’s disease
    • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (“NAFLD”)
    • Cirrhosis
    • Liver cancer

When considering applying for benefits due to liver disease, it’s crucial to first review your disability insurance policy.  Each policy contains a unique definition of disability, which outlines the criteria you must meet to be considered disabled.  Generally, this involves proving that your liver disease significantly limits your ability to perform your job duties or any other work, depending on your policy’s definition of disability.  If you’re unsure of the criteria you must meet to get your claim approved, consider consulting with an ERISA attorney who can review your policy.


What are the disabling symptoms of liver disease?

If you are living with liver disease, you may experience a range of symptoms that can prevent you from working.  These disabling symptoms vary depending on the severity and stage of your liver disease, but commonly include:

    • Fatigue and Weakness: Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of liver disease and can be profound and persistent, making it difficult for you to sustain regular work activities or even manage simple tasks at home.
    • Cognitive Impairments: Liver disease can lead to a condition known as hepatic encephalopathy, which affects your brain function.  This can result in confusion, memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and in severe cases, altered levels of consciousness.
    • Jaundice: This is characterized by yellowing of the skin and eyes, which occurs when your liver fails to properly process bilirubin.  While jaundice itself may not be disabling, it indicates significant liver dysfunction.
    • Ascites and Edema: Liver disease can cause fluid accumulation in your abdomen (ascites) and swelling in the legs (edema), leading to discomfort, pain, and mobility issues.
    • Chronic Pain: You may experience abdominal pain or discomfort, particularly in the upper right side where your liver is located.  This pain can be persistent and debilitating.
    • Gastrointestinal Symptoms: These can include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and weight loss, making it challenging to maintain your strength and health.
    • Muscle Wasting: Advanced liver disease can lead to muscle wasting and weakness, further impairing your physical capacity.
    • Bleeding Disorders: Liver disease can impair your liver’s ability to produce clotting factors, increasing your risk of bleeding and bruising easily.  This can complicate surgical or dental procedures and increase the risk of internal bleeding.

The symptoms of liver disease can profoundly impact your ability to work by affecting both physical and cognitive capacities.  This is especially true for occupations which demand consistent high-level performance, critical thinking, and decision-making skills.

For example, individuals in executive positions or professions requiring intense mental focus, such as lawyers, doctors, or engineers, may find the cognitive impairments associated with liver disease particularly debilitating.  Hepatic encephalopathy, a condition resulting from liver disease, can lead to confusion, poor concentration, and memory lapses.  Imagine a surgeon who needs precise hand-eye coordination and sharp mental focus during procedures experiencing tremors or slowed cognitive processing— such conditions could not only hinder performance but also pose significant risks in high-stakes environments.

Moreover, fatigue is a common symptom of liver disease that can severely limit productivity and endurance.  A high-level executive required to lead meetings, make critical decisions, and manage complex projects could find themselves unable to sustain the necessary energy levels throughout the day.  This fatigue might not be alleviated by rest, making it challenging to meet the demands of leadership and decision-making roles that require constant, vigorous engagement.

Additionally, liver disease can lead to abdominal pain and discomfort, significantly affecting your ability to maintain a regular work schedule.  Individuals with physically demanding jobs, including those in higher management that require travel, could find it increasingly difficult to fulfill their roles.  The necessity to manage sudden symptoms or attend frequent medical appointments can further disrupt your capacity to adhere to a demanding work schedule, impacting job performance and reliability.


How do I prove my liver disease is disabling?

Doctor is making a diagnosis for a patient in medical officeProving that your liver disease is disabling to your insurer involves presenting a comprehensive package of evidence that demonstrates both the extent of your medical condition and its impact on your ability to work.  Here are some examples of evidence that can support your claim:

    • Detailed Medical Records: Comprehensive records from your healthcare providers that document the diagnosis, treatment, progression, and current status of your liver disease.  This includes notes from your primary care physician, hepatologist, and any other specialists involved in your care.
    • Laboratory Test Results: Liver function tests (“LFT”s) are crucial for demonstrating the functionality and health of your liver.  Elevated levels of liver enzymes, bilirubin, or other abnormalities can support your claim.  Other relevant tests might include blood clotting tests, which are important because liver disease can affect clotting times.
    • Imaging Studies: Ultrasound, CT scans, MRI, and other imaging techniques that provide visual evidence of liver damage, such as fibrosis, cirrhosis, or any abnormalities within the liver.
    • Liver Biopsy Results: A biopsy is sometimes conducted to assess the extent of liver damage.  The results can provide definitive evidence of the severity of your liver disease.
    • Documentation of Symptoms and Their Impact: A detailed account of your symptoms, such as fatigue, weakness, jaundice, abdominal pain, cognitive issues, and how they specifically impact your ability to work.  This can include both physician observations and a symptom diary you maintain.
    • Functional Capacity Evaluation (“FCE”): This evaluation can demonstrate your physical capabilities and limitations, providing an objective measure of your ability to perform work-related tasks.
    • Neuropsychological Evaluation: If your liver disease has led to cognitive impairments, a neuropsychological evaluation can document issues with memory, concentration, problem-solving, and other cognitive functions that are essential for many jobs.
    • Treatment Responses and Side Effects: Most disability policies require proof of appropriate treatment in order to receive benefits.  Documentation of your treatment regimen, your response to treatment, and any side effects you experience can all further support your claim.  This can include information on medications, any surgical interventions, and non-pharmacological treatments like diet and lifestyle changes.
    • Statements from Your Healthcare Providers: Letters or detailed statements from your doctors that explain how your liver disease and its symptoms prevent you from performing your job or any job for which you are qualified, based on your education, training, and experience.
    • Vocational Assessment: In some cases, a vocational expert’s analysis of your job requirements compared to your physical and cognitive limitations can provide strong support for your claim.

When compiling your evidence, it’s essential to be thorough and detailed.  The goal is to create a clear picture of how your liver disease prevents you from performing your occupational demands.  Additionally, maintaining open communication with your healthcare providers about your intention to file for disability benefits can ensure their support in providing the necessary documentation.  Given the complexity of proving disability due to liver disease, consulting with an ERISA attorney experienced in disability claims can also be beneficial to navigate the process and improve your chances of a successful claim.


How can a disability insurance attorney help me get long term disability for liver disease?

Riemer Hess has assisted many clients with liver disease to secure their long term disability (“LTD”) benefits.  Our experience in navigating the complexities of disability insurance law means we understand how to present your case effectively to insurers.  With our comprehensive and personalized approach, Riemer Hess aims to alleviate the burden of the claims process, allowing you to focus on your health while we handle the legal complexities.

Client Case Study

Here’s an example of how we helped a client with liver disease win their LTD claim:

Unposed group of creative business people in an open concept office brainstorming their next project.Our client “Kate” approached Riemer Hess at a pivotal moment in her career, contemplating the difficult decision to leave her job due to the debilitating effects of her liver disease.  Her condition had been a rollercoaster of ups and downs over the years, significantly impacting her daily life and work performance.  Initially, transitioning to remote work seemed like a viable solution to manage her health while maintaining her professional responsibilities.  However, as her symptoms worsened, it became clear that even this accommodation was not sufficient.  Kate experienced extreme pain, making it impossible for her to sit at a desk for extended periods— a fundamental requirement for her job as a marketing director.

Understanding the complexities of disability claims, especially for conditions with fluctuating symptoms like liver disease, Riemer Hess took a strategic approach to bolster Kate’s case.  Our attorneys conducted a thorough review of her disability insurance policy and medical records to identify the best course of action.  Recognizing the importance of objective evidence in disability claims, Riemer Hess advised Kate to undergo a Functional Capacity Evaluation (“FCE”) before leaving her employment.  This step was crucial to establish a baseline of her physical capabilities and limitations.  Following the FCE, Riemer Hess worked closely with Kate’s treating physician to secure a supportive letter that corroborated the FCE results.  Armed with this evidence, Kate felt confident in her decision to leave her job and proceed with her disability claim.

Riemer Hess aided Kate with meticulously completing the claim forms, gathering all necessary medical records, and compiling comprehensive documentation to support her claim.  Our diligent preparation and strategic planning paid off when Kate’s claim was approved by her insurer.  To ensure that her benefits would continue without interruption, Kate chose to retain Riemer Hess to monitor her claim moving forward.  This partnership not only secured Kate’s financial support during a challenging time but also provided her with peace of mind, knowing she had strong advocates on her side.


At Riemer Hess, our experienced ERISA attorneys understand the disability insurance claim process and what your insurer will look for, whether you’re filing a claimappealing a wrongful denial, or looking to litigate with your insurer.  To arrange for a consultation with lawyers at Riemer Hess, call us at 212-297-0700 or click the button below to schedule an exploratory call.

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