Cancer is a frightening diagnosis and comes in many forms. Depending on the type of Cancer that the individual is diagnosed will determine how it must be evaluated under the Social Security Regulations. Some Cancers are not disabling, for example, breast cancer sometimes responds to treatment and the person is not off work for longer than one year. In order for any impairment to be disabling, it has to prevent an individual from working at any job for a period of at least one year. Normally disabling cancers are those that are inoperable, unresectable, recurrent, or that have metastasized and require aggressive treatment. Often times the initial planned treatment will fail within six (6) months after the treatment starts and will require a change in the treatment program. It may take another six (6) months to determine whether or not the person is responding to the new treatment program. Treatment in and of itself can be disabling and may or may not have the intended effect on the cancer. In addition, the patient is often left with lasting effects of treatment that can be disabling for at least a twelve (12) month period even though the cancer may be “in remission”. Also the immune system may be depleted because of the treatment and often times, the patient is advised by the treating physician not to work during an extensive recovery period.
In cancer cases, it is very important that the attorney work closely with the doctor(s) to determine the diagnosis, the intended treatment(s), the response to treatment and the expected recovery time. Every cancer patient responds differently and there are many cases where there are set backs and extended periods of recovery. I usually recommend that someone with a cancer diagnosis file for disability as soon as they become unable to work on a full-time basis. If the person recovers within twelve (12) months, the Social Security Disability claim and/or Supplemental Security Income claim can be withdrawn before it is decided by and Administrative Law Judge. If the person is still unable to work, by the time that the claim is scheduled for hearing, the claim can be pursued without any delay while trying to obtain benefits. In those cases where recovery is not expected or it is expected to result in death, the hearing can be expedited as critical and benefits can be obtained without the need for a hearing and often times much faster than waiting for a hearing date. In those cases where the individual must be isolated to avoid any chance of infection, special arrangements can be made to hold the hearing via telephone so as not to expose the cancer patient to the hearing office and all of the disabled people waiting for their hearings. Also, many cancer patients are also experiencing severe anxiety and/or depression as a result of the diagnosis and the changes that have occurred in their lives and bodies since diagnosis. It is extremely important that the cancer patient receive mental health treatment to help fight the disease and to learn how to live with the limitations that this illness imposes. Attorney Fink and her staff make every effort to expedite these types of claims as it is important that the cancer patient be focused on fighting the disease!
Disclaimer: These pages are only observations from my point of view of some of the factors that are present in the diagnosis. I am not a doctor, I am a lawyer and I am only providing observations of various signs and symptoms that I have seen during my practice and/or the signs and symptoms that I evaluate when taking a client in front of an Administrative Law Judge.