“I have just completed my chemotherapy and radiation treatments and the insurance company is saying I am ready to go back to work – I do not feel well enough to work – what can I do?“
Although there is a wide-spread belief that long-term disability benefits are available to protect you on an ongoing basis when you become ill, long-term disability insurance companies focus on making sure you return to the workforce as soon as possible. Unfortunately, many people who have been through cancer treatment find their health problems do not end with the completion of their treatment.
When you are no longer undergoing active treatment and your cancer is in remission, insurers typically argue that you should return to work. They often use the end of your cancer treatment as an opportunity to either:
- Suggest a rehabilitation program that enables you to return you to the workplace, or
- Terminate or deny your long-term disability benefits claim.
In making their decision on your claim, insurers will seek opinions from your treating oncologists to confirm the status of your treatment and the disease. If your oncologist confirms your treatment is complete or the disease is no longer active, insurers may use that information to terminate your disability claim, even if you are functionally unable to work.
Many of the cancer survivors we have represented struggle with the aftereffects of cancer treatment. They often contend with the lingering effects of the gruelling treatment, which can include:
- Build-up of fluid in soft tissues
- Heart problems
- High blood pressure
- Lung problems
- Premature menopause
- Chronic pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Cognitive issues
- Digestive problems
- Physical deconditioning
- Mental health issues
Additionally, our clients often say they are struggling with “chemo brain.” According to the Mayo Clinic, “chemo brain” and “chemo fog” are terms used to describe cognitive issues that can occur during and after cancer treatment. Signs and symptoms include the following:
- Being unusually disorganized
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty finding the right words
- Difficulty learning new skills
- Difficulty multitasking
- Mental fogginess
- Short attention span
- Short-term memory problems
- Taking longer than usual to complete routine tasks
- Trouble with verbal memory
- Trouble with visual memory
It can be challenging to prove cognitive impairment that prevents a return to work and you may have to undergo a neuropsychological evaluation to determine the extent of your impairment, in which specialists use standardized tests to measure your brain and cognitive functioning.
When an insurer denies a cancer claim due to the completion of treatment or lack of active disease, it’s critical to make sure the insurer understands that you continue to struggle with your functionality due to treatment aftereffects.
This can be done by submitting medical evidence from your doctors explaining your ongoing limitations and any restrictions caused by your symptoms. The explanation should encompass your occupational duties from a physical, cognitive, emotional and interpersonal perspective and how your symptoms impact your functioning in each of these areas.
Generally, there is no list of prescribed conditions that qualify for disability benefits coverage. The real question for disability claims assessors is whether the symptoms you experience due to your medical conditions impact your ability to function in the workplace.
Given that your oncologist will generally focus on providing an opinion on the status of your cancer, it’s important to obtain support from other treatment providers such as your family physician or mental health specialists.
Pursuing ongoing treatment for the lingering effects of your physical or mental medical conditions is necessary to ensure you meet the treatment compliance provisions of your insurance policy. It also helps to provide the insurance company with medical evidence to support a continuation of your disability claim even though you are no longer undergoing active cancer treatment.
If you are on disability for cancer and your benefits are being threatened or have been denied or terminated, you should discuss your issues with an experienced long-term disability lawyer. MK Disability Lawyers LLP are experienced lawyers dedicated exclusively to long-term disability matters. We would be happy to provide you with a free consultation. Please contact us by calling 844-697-4600. We also invite you to visit our website www.mkdisabilitylawyers.com.
The preceding is not intended to be legal advice. This blog is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog, it is understood that there is no solicitor-client relationship between the reader and the blog publisher. The blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed lawyer in your jurisdiction. If your disability claim has been denied and you require legal advice, contact a lawyer specializing in disability law.