Workers diagnosed with cancer usually have access to long-term disability benefits for cancer treatment through their employers, but a diagnosis of cancer does not guarantee your claim for benefits will be granted. Long-term disability policies vary. And the type of cancer, its severity, and treatment options are all a consideration during the benefits approval process. For example, individuals with early-stage cancer may not qualify for long-term disability benefits. But they may be eligible for short-term disability benefits.
Cancer is categorized in stages. Stages refer to the size of the cancerous tumor and how widespread the disease is in the body. Stage 1 cancer is defined as an abnormal growth of cells which is restricted to one part of the body. This type of tumor can often be removed through surgery. It’s highly unlikely that long-term disability benefits for cancer would be approved under these circumstances.
In Stage 2 cancer, the tumor may be growing, but it is still localized in one area of the body. However, it may have spread to lymph nodes close to the tumor. Stage 3 cancer usually means that lymph nodes in other areas of the body have been affected. In Stages 2 or 3 cancer, you may be able to get long-term disability benefits, especially if you are experiencing severe symptoms such as pain, weakness, cough, headaches, or nausea.
By Stage 4, the cancer has metastasized (spread) throughout the body. Stage 4 cancer may respond to treatment, but it often leads to severe side effects which can form the basis for a successful case for long-term disability benefits for cancer.
The treatments for cancer vary depending on the progression of the disease, its severity, and location in the body. An early stage treatment may only involve removal of a lesion or small tumor during routine surgery. This may not require any time out of work, or a very limited amount of time away from work. On the opposite end of the spectrum, are the more aggressive forms of treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation. Other therapies for advanced stage cancer include gene therapy, bone marrow transplants, and laser treatments.
The side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments usually result in longer absences from work. The side effects of chemotherapy can be debilitating and include nausea, pain, fatigue, compromised immune systems, and digestive issues. Similarly, radiation can cause skin irritation, fatigue, and other symptoms depending on the location of the cancer.
Disability caused by the side effects of cancer treatments is usually covered by short-term disability benefits rather than long-term benefits. However, there can be long-lasting side effects of these treatments. These are referred to as “late effects” that may be eligible for long-term disability benefits for cancer.
Whenever you apply for long-term disability benefits you can expect your claim to undergo careful examination and disability benefits for cancer are no different. Even if your cancer diagnosis is stage 2, 3, or 4, good medical documentation is essential in order to obtain approval for your disability benefits.
Work with your physician and include the results of all diagnostic tests such as biopsies, MRIs, CT scans, x-rays, and the like. Documentation for all office visits and treatment dates along with your physician’s clinical notes should also be included. You are also allowed to include statements from friends, family, and co-workers testifying to their observations of your ability to function in everyday situations and work environments. The more comprehensive, clinical, and tangible the evidence in your file, the more likely it is your claim for disability benefits for cancer will be approved.
If you have to appeal your benefits decision in court, keep in mind that long-term disability claims are governed by ERISA, the federal employee retirement income security act, and ERISA may not allow you to add any new evidence to your claim. When it comes to your medical files, “front-load” the documentation just to be on the safe side.
You won’t be surprised that hiring a disability law attorney is a boon to developing your case. An experienced lawyer will help you keep track of deadlines, handle communications with your insurance company, and he or she can work with your physician regarding the most helpful medical evidence and opinions to support your case. Finally, a good disability lawyer will know the best way to position your case for the desired results.
When you apply for disability benefits for cancer treatment, we can put our medical and legal expertise, compassion, and tenacity to work for you. Contact CJ Henry Law Firm today.