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What Is a Permanent Disability?

Workers that are injured while at work may be entitled to workers' compensation disability benefits.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2014
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Permanent disability is a term differently defined depending on who is defining it and purpose in claiming it. People may claim this disability as result of illness or when someone has purposefully or accidentally injured them. They might use the term to receive benefits from their country, to qualify for things like educational grants, or to claim rights to collect life/disability insurance payments from a private insurer. Difficulty in fully defining this concept arises from the fact that any of these sources might have varying ideas on what constitutes disability.

Implied in the term, permanent disability usually means a person will not be able to recover ability to work at a previous level. Some regions want proof that the condition has lasted for some time already or is likely to last for a certain period of time, and perhaps indefinitely. When the disability is not permanent, it still might be established that it will last for a sufficient period, such as a year or more, so that economic circumstances are deeply impacted.

Some permanent disability types appear to be readily accepted, such as loss of a major limb. A number of insurance/disability plans have convenient tables for computing exactly how much money a person is entitled to for losing limbs or digits. In these instances it doesn’t necessarily matter if the person’s job is not impacted by limb or digit loss, because the body part is not recoverable. Fortunately, with good physical therapy, limb/digit loss doesn’t always affect work.

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It may be more difficult to prove other types of permanent disability. Mental disorders can fall into this category, and chronic illnesses could also result in challenges. Having a good doctor who possesses strong skills in paperwork is often of great importance in proving a permanent disability of any type, but people may need to self-advocate, too, in any of the venues where they expect any form of economic recovery.

The permanent disability that is eventually cured is important to consider. Those receiving things like government support or public scholarships may need to mention this fact to such sources. It’s possible that economic support could end if a determination is made that a person is no longer disabled. Of course, when this situation occurs, it is also hoped that freedom from the disability allows people to seek their own resources and more fully participate in providing for themselves. Sometimes governments have programs to help people make the transition from disability support to self-support.

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ingridrdh
Post 11

I had ovarian cancer four years ago and went through chemo and radiation, plus three surgeries to remove parts of my colon. Now I have scar tissue and sever tummy problems.

I was fired from my job for being sick too often. I can be fine for days or even weeks, and then have an episode where I am in pain and get diarrhea and hemorrhoids. I am on disability now, but my doctor wants to take me off it. I will need to look for a new job, but I am a hygienist and some patients come from a far distance, take premed, take time off work to see me.

When I call in sick, come in late, or have long bathroom breaks, I will not keep a job for long. I am on medications, diet, creams, but do not see an improvement. Would I qualify for permanent disability?

amysamp
Post 9

@alfredo - It really depends on the type of obsessive compulsive disorder that your sister has and the type of treatment she is getting.

Also often time's people with OCD with the help of their therapist can work with their employers or future employers to come up with accommodations which allow them to work without jeopardizing their mental health.

aLFredo
Post 8

My sister ended up having acute obsessive compulsive disorder and it was very difficult for her to leave the house and sometimes even her room and she would spend fifteen hours at a time in her room.

Even though her disorder was obvious the time it took was six months (and this was the same amount of time that was quoted to us when we helped her apply for disability).

We looked and looked for other assistance, but instead we read over and over again that no matter what the process took six months and that she had to depend on friends and family if she had no savings.

It made me wonder what people that had a severe disability without family were to do while they waited for the decision on whether they would receive disability payments or not.

My sister is doing much better and we hope that her obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) does not turn into a permanent disability situation?

Has anyone ever had OCD become a permanent disability (I mean, I know OCD never goes away, but will my sister be able to go back to work)?

geekish
Post 7

Disability payments saved someone I know. He has schizophrenia and struggles literally every single day.

But at least with his disability payments he does not struggle to pay for a place to live and most importantly he does not struggle to find a way to get and pay for his medicine!

Part of his disability plan makes him have to go and pick up his medicine each week, and by doing this the people who work at the medicine place can see if his behavior has changed from week to week.

This is much better than them giving him a month's worth of his prescription and waiting a month to see if he is having trouble. With this system in place he is more likely to be a productive citizen again!

This story made me very proud of our disability system.

subway11
Post 6

I was reading a story about a twenty year old man that got into a motorcycle accident and had to have part of his leg removed and was getting ready to get discharged to a rehab facility, but the hospital performed an MRI and because the patient was a little unruly the doctor gave an over the phone prescription of a powerful narcotic that caused the patient to go into a coma and eventually the patient became a quadriplegic.

This poor man cannot even speak and is incontinent and has to have his food softened in a blender in order to eat it. His family received two multimillion dollar settlements but that is really going to go to the cost of his care.

I wonder if this settlement takes away his ability to also receive disability payments from Social Security. I think that he should be able to because there is no possible way that he could support himself. His mother had to quit her job to care for him and he also has a physical therapist and a nurse’s assistant care for him every day.

Bhutan
Post 5

@Starjo – Something similar happened to my mother when she was alive. She had difficulty receiving disability and was initially denied, but later got a lawyer to fight her case so that she could receive disability payments.

My mother had polio all her life and was unable to stand or sit for long periods of time which prevented her from working. It is really a shame that they give people that are truly disabled a hard time initially but I guess they want to make sure that the person is actually disabled before dispersing payments.

orangey03
Post 4

Schizophrenics do not have much trouble receiving money for their permanent disability. Doctors, coworkers, and the general public concede that they are a danger to themselves as well as to others.

I had a coworker who started talking to himself in various voices. Sometimes, he would lash out angrily at the air. Our boss made him take a drug test. When he passed, the boss forced him to go to a psychiatrist.

After he got diagnosed, he was relieved of his duties, and the paperwork was set in motion. He started receiving checks rather quickly, but he had to use most of them to pay for his stay at a mental hospital.

Perdido
Post 3

My coworker typed up reports and did business on the phone. A large portion of his job involved typing, however, so when he lost his hand in a horrible accident, he tried to apply for permanent disability.

After a six-month wait, he received a letter stating that he was not eligible, because he still had one hand that he could use. They knew it would slow him down, but it would not be impossible to type with one hand.

He spoke to his previous employer, who agreed to take him back on without making him type. His boss said they could use him to conduct calls and let someone else type reports.

wavy58
Post 2

@StarJo - It does seem to take a long time to get any money. I don’t know what the disabled are expected to live on in the meantime. I do know the massive relief that comes with receiving that first check, though.

My friend had been a great drummer, and he made a steady income from it. However, he developed back problems and had to have surgery. The pain was so great that they implanted a pain medicine pump into his body.

He may never be able to play the drums again. Sitting, walking, and lying down all are painful to him. Yet, he had to wait a year to see any disability money.

StarJo
Post 1

I have an uncle who had trouble when filing for permanent disability. His poor physical condition was obvious, and his doctor did paperwork for him, but still, the government was reluctant to provide him any money.

He injured his back years ago, and he has a lot of trouble moving around. He also has heart and lung trouble that will likely last the rest of his life.

He finally ended up calling a local congressman for our state. The man pulled some strings and got my uncle the disability money. We don’t know exactly what he did, but we are grateful.

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