Retinitis Pigmentosa Disability Claims

People who suffer from Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a rare genetic disorder, first experience difficulty seeing at night and a loss of peripheral vision. As the disorder progresses, the cells in the retina – the lining of the back of the eye – breaks down and cells die. In many cases, individuals lose night vision and peripheral or side vision. RP can also lead to blurred vision, when reading, driving and recognizing faces becomes difficult or impossible. In some cases, RP will eventually lead to the complete loss of sight.

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There are many different types of RP, so there are different degrees of severity. However, all lead to impaired vision as the disorder progresses. The transition from having completely good vision to the impairment of a gradual loss of vision is a stressful one, for many reasons.

How Do Insurance Companies View Retinitis Pigmentosa Disability Claims?

When it comes to disability insurance, the impact of RP can include an additional challenge – the depression and anxiety that often accompanies a life-changing diagnosis. The insurance company may seek to combat the claim for benefits by turning the claim into a mental-nervous claim. This is not an uncommon strategy, and one that Frankel & Newfield has battled on behalf of many claimants. Policy language may serve to hurt a claimant, where a mental health issue has any impact on the claimant.

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The trouble may emerge when the treating physician’s notes include any language about the emotional impact of the diagnosis that include the phrase “Depression” or “Anxiety.” The doctor and the patient know that this is directly linked to the change of life that will occur as a result of having Retinitis Pigmentosa, but for the insurance company, this is an opportunity to limit financial exposure. Mental-nervous claims are generally limited to a 24-month benefits period.

Another issue for Retinitis Pigmentosa disability claimants is the nature of their disorder. Retinitis Pigmentosa is considered to follow a fairly well-characterized pattern of progression. Usually the first ten years of disease, the rate of progression is slow, then it accelerates during the next two decades, and then slows again for the duration of the person’s life. The age of onset seems to be the most variable aspect of the disorder.

Can You Continue to Work with Retinitis Pigmentosa?

If your job performance is linked to the ability to see, having RP creates a challenge that cannot always be overcome by learning new skills, i.e., the ability to read with Braille, various technologies used to help vision-challenged individuals to use computers, etc. A top performing salesperson, for instance, needs to be able to read their prospect’s faces to move the sales process along. Someone who must access a large amount of information, like an anesthesiologist, to make decisions about treatment, needs the ability to see their equipment. And in the most obvious case, a medical professional without excellent eyesight cannot perform surgery or other complex treatments.

Jason Newfield and Justin Frankel have represented a large number of individuals suffering from RP disorder and are highly skilled in the strategies employed by disability insurance companies to deny or limit claims. We encourage you to contact our office at 877-583-2524 to learn more about our experience with RP claimants and how we can help you.

Jason A. Newfield

Written By:

Jason A. Newfield

Disability Insurance Attorney