Cancer disability claims are frequently denied

Cancer is one of the most common causes of disability. But many cancer patients who invoke their long term disability insurance have their claims denied.

The stated reasons for denial vary, but typically the rationale is that the person is "not disabled enough." It is possible to fight back against a claim denial by documenting how the symptoms of the cancer and the side effects of treatment prevent a person from working.

Cancer and cancer treatment can be disabling

A diagnosis of cancer is not necessarily the death sentence it once was. More people are surviving cancer and many are able to continue working while undergoing treatment. But this is not always possible. The combination of the illness and the adverse side effects of chemo or radiation therapy can make it impossible to sustain employment.

Cancer claims are one of the single biggest categories of disability claims, accounting for about 15 percent of claims under long term disability insurance policies. Unfortunately, such claims are routinely denied. It's a devastating emotional blow and a financial hardship when you are already dealing with a life-threatening condition.

To appeal a denied cancer claim, we work with cancer patients and cancer specialists to assemble evidence that supports the case for disability:

  • The type of cancer - Some cancers are more aggressive. Some forms are more amenable to treatment. Some types of cancers have disabling symptoms, such as bone pain, internal bleeding or bowel problems.
  • Which stage - Stage 1 cancer claims are regularly rejected, while Stage 4 claims are typically not challenged. Stage 2 and Stage 3 can go either way.
  • Side effects of treatment - Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation can cause debilitating symptoms, such as nausea, headaches, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, significant weight loss, fatigue, shortness of breath, memory problems and susceptibility to infections. These need to be documented in the context of how they interfere with working.
  • Work demands - Some occupations are more strenuous than others, or less flexible in accommodating the medical appointments and setbacks associated with cancer progression and treatments.

The insurance companies have their own medical experts, and will commonly refute the severity of symptoms or whether those symptoms should prevent the claimant from working. But with legal help, many denied disability claims are ultimately approved.

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