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Immunodeficiency Disorders & Denied Long-Term Disability

By Matt Lalande in Disability Conditions, Hamilton Disability Lawyer, Long-Term Disability on December 21, 2022

Immunodeficiency Disorders & Denied Long-Term Disability

If you suffer from an immunodeficiency disorder and have been denied long-term disability benefits, our Hamilton Long-Term Disability Lawyers can help.

Immunodeficiency disorders are a group of conditions in which the body is unable to mount an effective immune response against foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. These disorders can range from mild to severe, resulting in varying degrees of susceptibility to infections and other medical problems. Common types of immunodeficiencies include primary immunodeficiencies, which occur when the immune system does not develop properly or fails to produce certain cells; secondary immunodeficiencies, which occur when the body’s ability to fight off invading organisms is weakened due to various factors; and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which occurs when the immune system has been destroyed by infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Treatment options for these conditions vary depending on their severity, but may include medications, dietary changes, lifestyle modifications, physical therapy, and even surgery or transplants.

People with immunodeficiency disorders can have difficulty meeting certain work-related requirements, such as physical labor or long hours. In some cases, they may be too sick or frail to keep up with the demands of a job and be unable to continue – and unfortunately suffer from work disability. For those struggling to work due to their condition, it is important to apply for and receive long-term disability benefits. Additionally, many organizations provide support programs that cater specifically to those with immunodeficiency disorders and help them find employment that is suited for their individual needs.

The problem for many however, is that many disability insurance adjusters do not understand the complexities of immunodeficiency disorders, which can make it difficult for those struggling with these conditions to get the benefits they need and deserve. It is important for those long-term disability benefits to advocate for themselves. Additionally, having an experienced Hamilton long-term disability lawyer who on your side can ensure that you understand your legal rights and help denied long-term disability benefits back on track. Our long-term disability lawyers are able to provide you with the legal advice and representation you need to ensure that your rights are protected. We have litigated against all disability insurance carriers and have recovered tens of millions in wrongfully denied disability benefits for claimants in the Hamilton area, throughout the Golden Horseshoe, Southern Ontario and throughout the entire province.

What is an Immunodeficiency Disorder?

The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect the body from foreign or harmful substances. It consists of specialized white blood cells called lymphocytes, macrophages and other phagocytic cells that identify and destroy pathogens. The immune system also produces antibodies and chemicals like interferon that help to protect the body from infection. When the immune system detects a threat, it quickly responds by releasing cytokines which trigger inflammation to fight off the pathogen. In addition, the immune system can learn to recognize and quickly respond to specific pathogens so it can more effectively defend against them in the future.

Normally, when an antigen is detected in the body, the immune system responds to the presence of the antigen by producing antibodies to attack and destroy it:

  • B-cells: white blood cells that produce antibodies to recognize and eliminate antigens.
  • T-cells: T-cells help to destroy virus-infected cells and regulate the immune system.
  • Phagocytes: another form of white blood cells that ingest and break down foreign particles and debris.

A person’s immune system response may vary depending on age, medications, and other factors, but ultimately, someone with a healthy, functioning immune system can rely on it to help defend their body against these invasive antigens. When someone has an immunodeficiency disorder, however, their body’s immune system is weakened, either from genetic defects, medications, or infections and is not as effective in fighting off antigens. People with immunodeficiency disorders may experience a range of symptoms, including recurrent infections and general malaise, since their immune systems are malfunctioning and unable to provide the same level of protection against antigens, resulting in sickness and physical weakness, which can contribute to long-term work disability.

Causes of Immunodeficiency Disorders

Immunodeficiency disorders can develop as a primary disorder, meaning that the immune system of the individual is weaker than normal from birth, or acquired, meaning that the individual has developed an immunodeficiency disorder after becoming infected with a virus, such as the HIV virus. Immunodeficiency disorders can also be caused due to other factors such as certain medications, genetic mutations, or infections. Immunodeficiency can be caused by genetic defects, medications (such as chemotherapy), or infections. In some cases, the cause of immunodeficiency may be unknown:

Genetic inheritance: When immunodeficiency disorders are not the cause of any external factor, they are known as primary immune deficiency disorders (PIDDs), which are immunodeficiency disorders communicated to people through DNA or genetic inheritance. Also referred to as primary immunodeficiency (PI), this kind of immunodeficiency disorder can be the result of a single gene disorder or can be caused by the combination of multiple gene defects.

Medications: Immunosuppressive medications, such as those used for organ transplantation may result in the development of immunodeficiency disorders. Immunosuppressive medications like steroids are designed to suppress the body’s natural immune response in order to prevent rejection of transplanted organs.

Infections: Immunodeficiency disorders can be caused by a variety of infections, including HIV/AIDS and other viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections. Immunodeficiency caused by infections can be temporary, lasting only until the infection is resolved, or it can be permanent and require long-term management and care.

While a number of causes responsible for the development of immunodeficiency disorders have been identified, the exact cause of immunodeficiency disorders is often unknown. Not only can this make it challenging for medical professionals to create a treatment plan and accurate prognosis, it can be frustrating for those living with immunodeficiency disorders to go without any clear answers or explanations.

Types of Immunodeficiency Disorders

Primary immunodeficiency disorders

The result of a genetic mutation or inherited disorder, primary immunodeficiency disorders (PIDDs) are usually lifelong conditions that require close monitoring and long-term management. PIDDs typically manifest as recurrent or persistent infections, but can also cause other symptoms such as fatigue, gastrointestinal symptoms, and skin disorders. Primary immunodeficiency disorders are usually categorized in one of six groups:

  • B cell (antibody) deficiencies: can be caused by a genetic defect or mutation in the B cells, which are responsible for producing antibodies to fight off infections. (e.g. X-linked agammaglobulinemia (XLA) and Bruton’s Agammaglobulinemia)
  • T cell deficiencies: can be caused by a genetic defect or mutation in the T cells, which are responsible for recognizing and destroying infected or foreign cells. (e.g. DiGeorge Syndrome and Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID)
  • Combined B and T cell Immunodeficiencies: can be caused by a genetic defect or mutation in both B and T cells. (e.g. Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome and Ataxia Telangiectasia)
  • Phagocyte Deficiencies: can be caused by a genetic defect or mutation in the phagocytes, which are responsible for engulfing and destroying bacteria. (e.g. Chronic Granulomatous Disease and Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency)
  • Complement Deficiencies: can be caused by a genetic defect or mutation in the complement system, which is responsible for recognizing and destroying pathogens. (e.g. C1q Deficiency and Factor H Deficiency)
  • Idiopathic (without known cause): Immunodeficiency can also occur without an identifiable cause. (e.g. Immunodeficiency with Hyper-IgM Syndrome and Common Variable Immunodeficiency (CVID)

The most common primary immunodeficiency disorders are CVID, XLA, SCID and ataxia telangiectasia. Other PIDDs like Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome, Chronic Granulomatous Disease and Immunodeficiency with Hyper-IgM Syndrome are less common but can be just as serious.

Acquired immunodeficiency disorders

Acquired immunodeficiency disorders (AIDs) can be caused by a variety of factors, including medications, infections (HIV/AIDS being one of the most well-known), and other medical conditions. Unlike primary immunodeficiency disorders, acquired immunodeficiency disorders are typically temporary, lasting only as long as the underlying cause is present.

Acquired immunodeficiency disorders develop in response to an outside influence, not due to a genetic defect or mutation and can often be reversed or treated once the underlying cause is addressed. When the body is exposed to one of these causes, an immunodeficiency disorder can develop through a process called immunosenescence, which is the gradual weakening of the immune system due to a variety of factors, including aging, lifestyle choices, and chronic health conditions. There are a number of causes that could lead to developing an acquired immunodeficiency disorder:

  • Secondary immunodeficiency resulting from cancer: different cancer like lymphoma and leukemia can cause acquired immunodeficiency disorders
  • Immunosuppression from medications: as a result of chemotherapy drugs treatment or steroid use
  • Immunodeficiency caused by nutritional deficiencies: deficiencies in vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, vitamin B6, zinc can lead to immunodeficiency disorders through a process known as immunodeficiency-related malnutrition.
  • Immunodeficiency caused by infections: exposure to certain infectious agents like Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, measles and rubella can cause immunodeficiency disorders.
  • Immunodeficiency caused by chronic illnesses: there are cases of immunodeficiency disorders developing as a result of chronic illnesses like diabetes mellitus, congestive heart failure and liver cirrhosis.
  • Immunodeficiency caused by parasites, bacteria or viruses: exposure to different antigens such as malaria, tuberculosis, rubella and varicella-zoster can cause immunodeficiency disorders in some individuals.
  • Immunodeficiency due to immunosuppressant use: the use of immunosuppressants in procedures such as organ transplantation can lead to immunodeficiency disorders.
  • Immunodeficiency due to immunoglobulin deficiencies: immunoglobulin-A (IgA) deficiency and immunoglobulin-G (IgG) deficiency have been identified as causes for immunodeficiency disorders.
  • Immunodeficiency due to immunotoxicity: exposure to certain chemicals, like benzene and asbestos, can cause immunotoxicity leading to immunodeficiency disorders.

Immunosenescent individuals are more susceptible to contracting infections and other illnesses due to their weakened immune system. In addition, although many causes of acquired immunodeficiency disorder have been identified, some cases still remain idiopathic, or without a known cause. Both primary and acquired immunodeficiency disorders can present with similar symptoms. Immunodeficiency disorders can be debilitating and may make it difficult for an individual to work.

Symptoms of Immunodeficiency Disorders

While the symptoms of immunodeficiency disorders can vary greatly depending on the type and severity of the disorder, generally, those living with an immunodeficiency disorder may have difficulty fighting off infections and can experience frequent, recurrent, and/or serious infections. Experiencing frequent and repeated infections subjects the body to significant stress, leading to exhaustion and fatigue. The infections that people with immunodeficiency disorders have to deal with regularly can lead to many of the other symptoms associated with the condition:

  • consistent fatigue
  • fever
  • malaise (general feeling of being unwell)
  • persistent cough, sore throat, and/or sinus infections
  • difficulty breathing
  • diarrhea
  • skin rashes or lesions
  • joint pain
  • swollen lymph nodes

Immunodeficiency disorders can also increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as lymphoma and leukemia. With a weakened or absent immune response, people with immunodeficiency disorders are often unable to defend against the spread of cancer, resulting in an above-average incidence rate of cancer in people with immunodeficiency disorders. Studies by the National Institutes of Health show that people with immunodeficiency disorders are three times more likely to develop cancer than their healthy counterparts.

Immunodeficiency disorders can also lead to digestive issues such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting due to the body’s weakened ability to fight off bacteria and viruses. The continued presence of bacteria and viruses within the body is unhealthy and can lead to digestive issues because of the body’s weakened ability to fight off these invaders. With repeated bouts of these digestive issues, people with immunodeficiency disorders can suffer from further complications such as dehydration, malnourishment, and weight loss, which only further weaken the body.

Can Immunodeficiency Disorders compromise employment?

A qualitative study by the Immunodeficiency Patient Support Network found that living with immunodeficiency can cause disruption to normal life, from education and work to leisure activities and relationships, due to the body’s weakened ability to fight off infection. Immunodeficiency disorders can significantly negatively impact an individual’s ability to work and lead to long-term disability. Immunodeficiency disorder sufferers denied long-term disability insurance often find it difficult to cope financially and mentally.

Individuals with immunodeficiency disorders can find it extremely challenging to keep up with their job’s physical and mental demands. Due to missed work days from frequent illness, immunodeficiency disorder sufferers often find it difficult to meet their job’s expectations and requirements, compromising their overall employment. Immunodeficiency disorder sufferers may also be unable to take on additional responsibilities or keep working at their current job, which can drastically impact their careers and future.

Fatigue: Immunodeficiency can also make it very difficult for individuals to work, as the constant fatigue and infections may limit their ability to perform their job duties. Immunodeficiency sufferers are often unable to keep up with the same pace of work as their co-workers, leading to delays in completing tasks, reduced productivity, and the need for more frequent breaks and sick days. Their treatment schedule, including hospital and therapy visits, can also prove disruptive to their job and make it difficult to meet deadlines and expectations.

Infections: Immunodeficiency sufferers are also at an increased risk of infection, which can be dangerous in certain work environments. Immunodeficiency sufferers are more susceptible to contracting illnesses from their co-workers, increasing the risk of spreading germs to other members of their team. Immunodeficiency can also lead to frequent recurrences of infections, which can draining an individual’s energy and ability to complete tasks.

Mental Health: Immunodeficiency sufferers are also at an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues due to the stress of dealing with their condition. Immunodeficiency disorders can disrupt normal life and relationships, leading to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Severe cases of immunodeficiency can lead to a lack of motivation, poor focus, and difficulty completing tasks, which often affects their ability to maintain a high productivity rate at the workplace because of the resulting presenteeism or absenteeism.

In Canada, it’s estimated that up to 50% of people with immunodeficiency disorders are denied long-term disability insurance for their condition, further impacting their ability to work. It is important for those living with immunodeficiency disorders to seek legal advice if they are denied long-term disability insurance. A disability lawyer can help individuals understand their rights and provide guidance

Can I qualify for long-term Disability Benefits if I suffer from an immunodeficiency disorder?

The answer is that is depends. Qualifying for long-term disability benefits is policy specific. In order to qualify for long-term disability benefits, most policies mandate that a claimant must be totally disabled from the substantial duties of his or her own occupation, during the first two years of disability. Then, at this juncture, there is a change of definition in most policies. After two years, a claimant must show that he or she is totally disabled from any occupation for which he or she is reasonably suited by way of education, training or experience. In order to advance a claim for long-term disability benefits, most policies also mandate that claimants must participate in a consistent form of treatment in order to mitigate there physical or psychological ailments.

Why was my long-term disability insurance claim denied?

For an individual suffering from the debilitating symptoms of an immunodeficiency disorder, the denial of long-term disability insurance can be devastating. Immunodeficiency sufferers who are denied long-term disability insurance often find it difficult to cope financially and mentally, as they are unable to pursue the same career opportunities as others. Disability insurance companies will cite one of several common reasons when denying long-term disability insurance claims from people with immunodeficiency disorders:

Inability to prove their disability meets the definition of a “total disability”: Immunodeficiency disorders are complex and unique to every individual. Disability insurance companies will often deny claims if they feel the claimant has not provided sufficient proof of their disability, such as medical records or other evidence. There are even cases of disability companies hiring medical professionals to assess an individual’s disability which usually ends up being in the disability company’s favor.

Failure to meet specific requirements: Immunodeficiency sufferers may not meet certain requirements set by insurance companies, such as the ability to complete certain tasks or hold a job for a specified period of time. Disability insurance companies can even approach the companies of those applying for disability insurance to determine if the individual meets certain job requirements.

Incomplete or inaccurate medical records: Immunodeficiency sufferers will often have incomplete medical records or inaccurate information, which can lead to denials of long-term disability insurance. Disability insurance companies will ask for a comprehensive list of medical documents, including a complete set of past and current hospital records, lab results and any record of any rehabilitation or medications that were taken for the condition.

It is important for those living with immunodeficiency disorders to stay informed about their rights and seek the legal advice of a disability lawyer if they are denied long-term disability insurance. An experienced disability lawyer can help individuals understand their rights and provide guidance on how to appeal denied claims or fight for the coverage they need.

Immunodeficiency Disorders and denied Long-Term Disability Benefits? Contact our Hamilton Disability Lawyers today.

If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder and are have been denied long-term disability benefits, we would suggest contacting our Hamilton long-term disability lawyers, no matter where you are in Ontario – BEFORE – filing your internal appeal. In our experience, the internal appeals process is a highly biased process – decisions are not made by an independent body or organization, but rather employees from an “appeals committee” who are paid a salary by the same insurance company that originally denied your benefits.Since 2003, Hamilton long-term disability lawyer Matt Lalande has recovered tens of millions in wrongfully denied long-term disability benefits for disabled claimants were going to the worst times of their lives. Stop struggling with a faceless insurance company – and call our Hamilton disability lawyers to get your free consultation today. We represent claimants all over Ontario can help you get your long-term disability benefits back on track.Our consultations are 100% free – and if you decide to work with our Hamilton disability lawyers, the fee is free. We do not charge our clients anything unless we win their case. We are happy to provide you the legal advice you need in order for you to make an informed decision about your own particular situation.Call us no matter where you are in Ontario at 1-844-LALANDE or local in the Southern Ontario region at 905-333-8888. Alternatively, you can send us a confidential email through our website – and we would be happy to explain your long-term disability rights and legal options to you, at no cost.

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Five Quick Faqs

What immunodeficiency disorders are covered by long-term disability insurance in Canada?

Immunodeficiency disorders such as T-cell immunodeficiency, immunoglobulin deficiency, chronic granulomatous disease, Chediak-Higashi syndrome, immunodeficiency due to atypical thymic dysfunction, and immunodeficiency due to immunosuppressive medications are all covered by long-term disability insurance in Canada.

Is it common for long-term disability insurance claims to be denied for immunodeficiency disorders?

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for long-term disability insurance claims to be denied for immunodeficiency disorders. In Canada, it’s estimated that up to 50% of people with immunodeficiency disorders are denied long-term disability insurance for their condition.

What should I do if my immunodeficiency disorder claim is denied?

If your Immunodeficiency disorder claim has been denied, it is important to seek legal advice. A disability lawyer can help you understand your rights and provide guidance to ensure that you receive the benefits you deserve. Contact Lalande Personal Injury Lawyers today for a free consultation. We have experience working with Immunodeficiency sufferers to secure disability benefits and are here to help you navigate the process.

Is primary immunodeficiency a disability?

Yes, if you suffer from primary immunodeficiency or other immunocompromising conditions, you can qualify for long-term disability benefits.

What is the most severe immunodeficiency disorder?

Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) is very rare genetic disorder that causes life-threatening problems with the immune system. It is a type of primary immune deficiency.

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