Cancer Long Term Disability Insurance Claim Attorneys

Cancer, also called malignancy, is an abnormal growth of cells. There are more than 100 types of cancer, including breast cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and lymphoma. The severity of symptoms varies  depending on the type of cancer, the treatments needed and the person’s overall health before the diagnosis is made. 

Cancer treatment may include chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and/or surgery. Many people who suffer from cancer are not able to work because of the disease and the effects of their treatment. While many types of cancer are treated today as chronic conditions to be managed, treatment is still challenging and can be debilitating enough to require the individuals to stop working for a while.

Cancer patients who own private or individual long term disability insurance policies will typically contact their insurance agent to discuss filing a claim. For people who obtained their long term disability insurance policy through their employer, they are usually instructed to go online to the insurance company’s portal and fill out a claim form. 

For both kinds of insurance policies, the process of filing a claim is challenging. Dealing with a serious illness like cancer and at the same time dealing with an insurance company is overwhelming. Our experience in filing and managing claims takes a great deal of stress off the shoulders of claimants so they can focus on taking care of themselves.

Does It Matter What Type of Cancer I Have for a Disability Claim?

The words “You have cancer” are terrifying to hear. While there are many different types of cancers, and there are many new treatments for cancer, many patients cannot work during treatment. Some cancer patients can work part-time while undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy, while many are simply not able to work at all and count on their disability insurance benefits to cover the costs of running their households. 

As with any other illness or condition, it is not the diagnosis of cancer that qualifies you for short-term disability insurance or long-term disability insurance. What matters is your inability to perform the material and substantial duties of your own or any occupation.

This does not seem fair, as a diagnosis of cancer is so frightening to most people that many find themselves unable to concentrate at work, feeling anxious, sad, angry and many intense emotions as well as the symptoms of their illness.

What Can I Expect From My Disability Insurance Company When I Make a Disability Claim for Cancer?

Cancer patients filing a claim for long-term disability insurance often find themselves fighting to beat their illness and fighting with the long-term disability insurance company to obtain their long-term disability benefits. At our disability law firm, we can help you fight the disability insurance company so that you can direct your energies towards recovering from cancer. Long-term disability insurance companies treat cancer claims in the same manner as other claims. If medical records show a condition that has resulted from the cancer or the treatment for the cancer, the insurance company may try to change the claim from cancer to another condition. This is especially true if any physician notes include any mention of anxiety. 

The side effects of cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation, radiation implants, surgery, etc., vary widely depending on the treatment and the claimant’s response. The treatments and their side effects are considered temporary, even if their impact can be long-term. Radiation used to treat breast cancer, for instance, often impairs the heart and/or the lungs, with varying degrees of intensity from patient to patient.  The same is true of most chemotherapy treatments. Some side effects don’t manifest until years after treatment.

Cognitive Impairment Resulting from Chemotherapy

“Chemo brain”  is a common term used by cancer patients and survivors to describe the thinking and memory problems that can occur during and after cancer treatment. Chemo brain is also called chemo fog, chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment or cognitive dysfunction. The memory and cognition problems are a frustrating and debilitating side effect of cancer and its treatments. Because these symptoms may be temporary, or permanent and vary greatly from patient to patient, it’s extremely important that all medical records be aligned to work to support the claim.

Case History: Successful Representation of Breast Cancer Patient

Our client was a 47-year-old neurosurgeon diagnosed with breast cancer requiring multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and subsequent rehabilitation. During the course of her chemotherapy treatment, she developed numbness and tingling in her hands and feet, which progressed after treatment with the oral chemotherapy drug Taxol. The residual side effects of chemotherapy treatment included peripheral neuropathy in her hands and feet and “chemo brain,” described as memory loss, poor attention and concentration, difficulty coping with stress, concurrent with the development of depression and anxiety.

These side effects never dissipated and she never fully recovered. Neurosurgery is one of the most technically and physically demanding specialties, requiring the longest residency training of seven years and frequently, an additional one to two year fellowship. 

After completing such a rigorous and demanding education, and becoming sick at such a young age, our client was devastated by her illness and her disability. She had to leave her successful career behind and filed a claim for disability benefits. She had two disability policies provided through The Standard. One policy was a group policy provided through her employer and the second was an individual policy she purchased privately. Initially, both claims were approved and The Standard paid her disability benefits, but a few months later, The Standard became increasingly difficult, requesting more and more documentation addressing why she could not return to work. Despite the opinions of our client’s treating neurologists, The Standard terminated both of her disability claims.

The Standard’s decision to terminate her disability claims focused solely on a belief that our client had the physical and mental capacity to return to work in her own physically and cognitively demanding occupation. The Standard’s rationale was based on an inaccurate understanding of the material and substantial duties of her occupation as a neurosurgeon. The Standard relied upon the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”), an overly generalized and largely outdated database that does not accurately describe occupations as they exist in today’s labor market. The Standard clearly erred in relying upon the DOT source  in determining that our client had the ability to return to work as a neurosurgeon with her ongoing restrictions and limitations. We worked closely with our client in obtaining occupational materials and developed a powerful vocational report outlining the nature of her job.

These arguments delineated in great detail the material and substantial duties of a neurosurgeon, including the mental toughness and physical endurance required of the occupation, the intense precision of hand, equipment and tool movement necessary – none of which can be overemphasized. Extreme stress or unsteady hands could lead to potential devastating consequences. A lapse in focus, slip of a hand, or minute surgical error could easily lead to a patient’s death, neurological impairment both physical and/or cognitive, loss of limb function, loss of functional independence, or permanent brain damage. 

We developed compelling objective medical support with our client’s physicians which furthered our arguments of why she could not perform the essential duties of her occupation. All of her physicians reported that she was unable to sustain the mental or the physical demands of her occupation on a full-time sustained basis and challenged the opinions of The Standard’s review.

Our appeal aggressively attacked The Standard’s utter failure to undertake any type of occupational analysis that truly appreciated the physical and cognitive demands of a neurosurgeon. Nor did The Standard appreciate the findings of her treating physicians who outlined the numerous side effects she suffered from chemotherapy treatment which greatly impacted her ability to work. Had The Standard done this in the very beginning, our client’s benefits would never have been terminated. A few weeks after we submitted our client’s appeal, The Standard overturned its decision on both claims and reinstated her disability benefits. Our client continues to receive two large benefit monthly checks from The Standard for her group and individual disability claims.

How Depression and Anxiety in Cancer Patients Impacts Disability Claims

Depression and anxiety are common to cancer patients. A claims adjuster will review claim documents and determine that the disability claim has changed from cancer to a mental/nervous condition or a chronic fatigue condition, which have more restrictive benefit limits. This is just one example of the tactics used by disability insurance companies and their claims adjusters to delay and deny cancer patients their disability insurance benefits.

Do Insurance Companies Understand the Difference Between Cancers and Their Progression?

It’s very important that your medical records are as specific as possible. We work with oncologists to ensure that medical records include this information:

  • Correct medical name for the type of cancer
  • Size and location of tumor(s)
  • Stage of the cancer
  • Biopsy results
  • If the cancer considered operable, inoperable, or unresectable (not entirely removable)
  • Radiological tests, including CT-scans, PET-scans, x-rays, MRIs, mammograms
  • Bloodwork details
  • Our work with oncologists also includes ensuring that the medical records correctly reflect the claimant’s inability to perform the tasks of their occupation.

How Our Disability Lawyers Help with Your Cancer Disability Claim

The last thing a cancer patient should have to think about is whether or not their disability insurance company is going to delay or deny disability benefits, but unfortunately, this does happen. Jason Newfield has successfully represented many cancer patients, and understands how difficult it is to battle a large insurance company while trying to cope with such a serious illness. 

If you are about to file for a disability claim for cancer or have filed a claim and have been asked to provide additional information or are experiencing any delay in payment of benefits, call our offices today at 1-877-406-7883 for a free consultation.