A diagnosis of cancer – even one that is treatable – cannot be taken lightly. Although significant progress has been made in the field of cancer research and treatment, cancer still takes the lives of millions of people worldwide every year. There are over 100 types of cancer and treatment can vary for individuals on a case-by-case basis. Often, cancer and the treatment of cancer (which may include surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation) can force individuals to stop working.
Some may assume that a cancer patient who applies for disability benefits will easily be approved for disability benefits. However, this is not always true. It is not enough to prove a diagnosis of cancer and expect to receive disability benefits. Rather, the individual must show that the cancer and/or cancer treatment is causing severe symptoms that would prevent the performance of work and that they meet the applicable definition of “Disability”.
To improve the chances of being approved for disability benefits, the patient should have their doctor clearly document all of their symptoms, including pain, headaches, fatigue, nausea, numbness, dizziness, inability to concentrate, memory problems, difficulty walking or standing, emotional difficulty, and any other symptoms that affect functioning. This means that the patient must maintain treatment for all medical professionals they see, including oncologists, surgeons, family doctors, pain management specialists, and others.
The individual should also carefully track the symptoms they experience after surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Each of these forms of treatment may come with severe side effects. For example, chemotherapy may cause peripheral neuropathy. If a chemotherapy patient experiences neuropathy, they should have their doctor carefully document their symptoms of pain and numbness, and also undergo appropriate testing (EMG) to prove that the patient is experiencing neuropathy. Another possible side effect of chemotherapy is “chemo brain”. If an individual experiences chemo brain, they should undergo a mental status examination to document their forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, trouble multi-tasking, taking longer to finish tasks, or other memory problems.
Radiation affects people differently, but it may cause skin changes, tiredness, diarrhea, or trouble eating, among other side effects. Again, it is important to have medical providers document each and every symptom experienced. If a disability claim is missing documentation about each symptom, then it may not accurately depict the severity of the individual’s condition.
For disability insurance claims, the individual should look to the applicable definition of “Disability” that is found in their disability policy. The definition of “disability” lets those covered by the policy know the standard of disability they must meet. For group disability policies, it is common that the individual must prove they are disabled from performing the duties of their “own occupation” during the elimination period and for the first 24 months they receive long term disability benefits. After long term disability benefits have been paid for 24 months, the definition of “disability” often becomes more stringent and the individual must prove that they are disabled from performing the duties of “any occupation”. Every long term disability policy is different, so it is important to understand the requirements to be approved for disability benefits under your long term disability policy.
For Social Security disability claims, there is a specific set of Medical Listings that govern cases involving disability due to cancer. These Listings assist the Social Security Administration in reviewing medical evidence to determine if cancer is disabling. There are 28 different categories of listings that a disability applicant may meet or equal. If the applicant proves that they meet or equal any of these listings, their claim for Social Security disability benefits will automatically be approved. Even if they do not meet or equal a listing, they can still prove a disability if they show that their severe impairments prevent the performance of past relevant work and also prevent the performance of substantial gainful activity. Just as in long term disability insurance cases, it is important for the applicant to understand the eligibility requirements of the Social Security Administration’s disability program.
O’Ryan Law Firm has helped individuals receive disability benefits due to cancer. If you have applied for disability benefits and your claim has been denied, contact O’Ryan Law Firm immediately for a free consultation. We represent individuals who have been denied for short term, long term, or Social Security disability benefits. You may call us toll-free at 1-855-778-5055 or submit information online so that we may contact you.