The promises sound great – no more glasses, no more contact lenses – unlimited vision. And for most people, Lasik surgery is a life changer. But not everyone has a success story. Many men and women who undergo Lasik surgery are left with double and triple vision, an inability to drive at night, painful dry eyes and persistent visual problems that in some instances, lead to their inability to work, drive, and enjoy their lives.
A recent article in The New York Times, “Lasik’s Risks are Coming Into Sharper Focus,” opens with the story of a man who now sees everything in triplicate. A graphics artist, and only 33, his eyes are dry and burn so badly that he must put in drops every thirty minutes. He cannot see at night, and he suffers from a wide range of visual distortions that interfere with his work.
Other patients told federal health officials at an FDA hearing about the impact of their surgery, reported in an article from The Associated Press “Witnesses Tell of Suffering After Lasik,” including suicides.
If your occupation depends upon your ability to see, like the graphic artist described above, and Lasik surgery has harmed your vision, your disability insurance policy should replace the income that you lost as a result. But short and long term disability insurance claims are not always that simple.
Some of the problems experienced by Lasik patients may not begin until years after they have the surgery. Others may experience double vision, dry eyes or ocular soreness for a while, then the symptoms subside. Others are not so lucky, and must learn to live with a visual disability.
Here are the responses from the disability insurance company:
- The surgery was elective, and there are risks to any surgery. Why should the disability insurance company pay benefits on a negative result from an elective procedure?
- The side effects are temporary and may go away over time. Someone who claims they cannot work because of their eyesight’s temporary problem might be able to get short term disability, but this is not a long term disability claim.
- If the patient can read an eye chart in the office, then they are not really visually impaired.
A significant decrease in visual acuity is most often associated with lowered income, especially if the person is a trained professional whose eyesight is critical to perform the tasks and duties of their occupation. It is easy to understand that a highly skilled surgeon can no longer practice in her field. But it is hard to imagine any occupation that is not affected by a marked change in vision.
The challenge to regaining the ability to work with a vision loss would include retraining the person through an occupational rehabilitation program. However, the loss of the original occupation should allow the person to receive residual benefits, that is, payments for their loss of ability to perform the duties of their original occupation, even if they are able to work in some other capacity. This is more likely to occur with a private or individual disability policy than one offered as part of employment benefits.
Many of the heartbreaking stories about Lasik surgery involve physicians who expected a successful outcome and have to cut back on their practice because they can no longer see clearly.
Some post-Lasik patients are fine for a year or two, and then have post-Lasik ectasia, one of the most controversial issues in this kind of surgery. Described as “a condition where the cornea starts to bulge forward after corneal laser eye surgery,” some eye doctors say this can be fixed with collagen crosslinking, a procedure that is done in the office to strengthen the cornea. But for many patients, there are no treatments to fix the problem, and they must rely on specialized contact lenses, wearing glasses and a reduced quality of life.
If you have had Lasik surgery and are experiencing visual problems that make it difficult or impossible for you to work, you may be considering filing a disability claim. We recommend having a conversation with our office before filing so that you can learn more about the potential problems facing your claim. Call our office at 877-LTD-CLAIM (877-583-2524) to learn how we can help.