Can I Get Short-Term Disability for Cancer Treatment?

Mar 8, 2021 | Blog |

Cancer will inevitably change your life. While some people can continue to work during treatment, many struggle to balance their job duties, symptoms, and doctor’s appointments. Thankfully, you might be eligible for short-term disability benefits during your treatment.

Bryant Legal Group helps people battling cancer get the disability insurance benefits they deserve. We understand how both the disease and treatment can make it hard to do the things you love—both at work and at home.

Working During Cancer Treatment: What to Expect

Your ability to work during cancer treatment will depend on a variety of factors:

  • The type of cancer and its stage
  • Your treatment plan
  • The effect of those treatments on you
  • Your profession and job duties

For some people with cancer, work is a welcome distraction. For others, balancing work and their fight against cancer is simply too much.

As you weigh your options, work closely with your medical team to identify your unique risk factors, limitations, and capabilities during cancer treatment.

For some people with cancer, work is a welcome distraction. For others, balancing work and their fight against cancer is simply too much.

Common Cancer Treatments and Side Effects

Your cancer treatment plan might include a variety of tactics. Depending on your cancer’s stage, aggressiveness, as well as your age and overall health, your medical team might try multiple treatment options, including:

  • Surgery: One of the most common cancer treatments, surgery is used try to physically remove the cancer from your body.
  • Chemotherapy: With this treatment option, doctors use specialized medications to kill your cancer. While traditional chemotherapy is an infusion, there are also oral chemotherapy drugs. Many people experience significant side effects while on chemotherapy, including fatigue, flu-like symptoms, and hair loss.
  • Radiation therapy: Your medical team may try to kill cancer cells using radiation. While the process itself is painless, many people experience pain, fatigue, skin rashes, and other symptoms as side effects.
  • Immunotherapy: You can harness your immune system to fight certain types of cancer, using medications, T-cell transfers, antibodies, and other therapies. It can cause flu-like symptoms, rashes, and pain.
  • Hormone therapy: Some cancers, especially prostate and breast cancer, use hormones to grow. These therapies try to slow their growth, but can cause fatigue, nausea, weight gain, and mood swings.
  • Stem cell and bone marrow transplants: These therapies aim to restore your stem cells. However, the transplantation process and recovery are difficult and can take more than a year to complete.

How Long Can Cancer Treatment Take?

Your treatment will vary in length, depending on your specific cancer, and the tactics you and your medical team choose. While some minor surgeries have short recovery times, a course of chemotherapy can take three to six months—and a stem cell transplant often takes a year or more to complete.

That means that you might be unable to work for an extended period of time. In these cases, you should consider applying for short-term disability benefits through your employer-sponsored or privately purchased plan.

RELATED: Cancer and Disability Insurance: A Claimant’s Guide

How Does Short-Term Disability Work?

Filing for short-term disability is a deeply personal decision. However, if you and your doctors decide that you cannot work due to your symptoms and the side effects of treatment while you’re fighting cancer, it can provide peace of mind and financial assistance. Short-term disability benefits will pay you a portion of your salary each month while you are unable to work due to cancer—if you qualify under your plan.

Most short-term disability plans are operated by for-profit insurance companies, and their terms and conditions can vary. Generally speaking, you may be eligible for short-term disability if you can prove that you’ll be disabled for a brief period (from a few weeks to up to a year). However, short-term disability plans define “disability” in different ways:

  • Own occupation: You cannot do your actual job due to your cancer and its treatment.
  • Any occupation: You are unable to perform any type of work due to your health conditions.

While most short-term disability plans use the more generous “own occupation” standard, it’s best to review your Plan Document or Summary Plan Description (SPD) before you apply for benefits. That way, you’ll understand the precise requirements of your plan from day one.

If the insurance company agrees that you are disabled, they will pay you a monthly benefit. However, there might be other clauses in your policy that delay or complicate your claim:

  • Elimination periods: Many short-term disability policies have brief waiting periods (typically a matter of days or weeks) before they will pay out benefits.
  • Pre-existing conditions and other exclusions: Some private disability policies will exclude pre-existing conditions and specific diseases (including cancer) from coverage.

If you run into problems with your short-term disability claim, you should consult with one of our experienced disability insurance lawyers. Sometimes, insurance companies try to use policy language to wrongly deny claims. We can help you understand your legal options.

RELATED: Get Your Short-Term Disability Benefits Approved: 5 Ways to Improve Your Application

How Do I Apply for Short-Term Disability Insurance for Cancer?

While you can apply on your own, many cancer patients decide to work with a short-term disability lawyer. That way, they can focus on their recovery and their many doctor’s appointments, not the details of their insurance claims.

If you do decide to handle your own application, you will typically have to complete the following tasks:

  • Notify the insurance company of your disability
  • Complete a series of forms
  • Collect evidence that documents your cancer diagnosis, limitations, work history, treatment plan, prognosis, and other information
  • Communicate and negotiate with an insurance adjuster (who will investigate your claim and issue a claim decision)
  • Respond to the adjuster’s requests for additional information and clarification
  • Review the insurance company’s decision and determine whether you need to file an appeal

If you need help with any of these tasks, you can either download our Disability Insurance Roadmap, which includes worksheets and other tools, or schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.

What If My Cancer Permanently Disables Me?

If your cancer journey takes longer than a year, you might be eligible for long-term disability (LTD) insurance benefits. Depending on your LTD policy, you might receive a monthly benefit until you reach retirement age. However, even if the insurance company quickly approved your short-term disability claim, you might encounter issues when filing for long-term disability.

Many long-term disability insurance plans use the more rigorous “any occupation” definition of disability. That means that you’ll need to prove that you’re unable to do any type of work—including the simplest, easiest jobs. The insurance adjuster, who might have seemed very compassionate and helpful during your short-term disability claim, may suddenly start ignoring your calls or giving you the runaround.

Our disability insurance lawyers can help you fight back. So, don’t give up if you run into red tape.

Bryant Legal Group: Helping People With Cancer Get the Benefits They Deserve

At Bryant Legal Group, our practice focuses on disability insurance law. We’ve fought for disabled professionals across Chicago and Illinois and have earned a reputation for our practical approach, sophisticated tactics, and stellar client experience. We’ve recovered millions in benefits for our clients, and we’d love to learn more about your story.

To schedule your free consultation, call us at 312-561-3010 or complete our online form.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

 

Bryant Legal Group - Chicago Healthcare and Disability Attorneys

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"Though difficult for the obvious reasons, your involvement has made this process infinitely more tolerable. Please know of my sincere appreciation for your efforts. With Very Best Regards,"

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