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Getting Short and Long Term Disability for Breast Cancer

breast cancer can cause short or long term disability

Breast cancer can have a significant impact on your ability to work and earn a living, especially if you need to undergo surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or other treatments that may affect your physical and mental health.  If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer and are covered by disability insurance, you may be eligible for short or long term disability benefits that can help you cope with the financial burden of your illness.

In this article, we will explain what you need to know when filing a breast cancer short or long term disability claim.


What Qualifies as Short or Long Term Disability for Breast Cancer Patients?

For breast cancer patients, qualifying for short term or long term disability under ERISA-governed plans depends on several criteria centered around your inability to work.  Short term disability usually covers a period immediately after you become unable to work, typically ranging from a few weeks to several months, while long term disability benefits are designed to kick in after the exhaustion of short term benefits, providing financial support for a more extended period, potentially lasting until retirement age, depending on your plan.

Typically, to meet the criteria for short or long term disability due to breast cancer, you will need to demonstrate the following to your insurance company:

  • Medical Diagnosis: You must have a formal diagnosis of breast cancer, confirmed through medical tests and evaluations, documented by your healthcare provider.

  • Inability to Work: The core criterion for disability benefits is your inability to perform your job duties due to your breast cancer diagnosis.  This inability can result from the direct effects of the cancer itself, the side effects of treatment (like chemotherapy, radiation, surgery), or both.  The specific requirements can vary by plan, but generally, you must be unable to perform the essential functions of your job or any job that you are qualified for, depending on the terms of your plan.

  • Treatment Side Effects: Many patients experience significant side effects from breast cancer treatments, such as extreme fatigue, cognitive impairments (“chemo brain”), pain, and emotional distress, which can impede their ability to work.  These documented side effects are considered when evaluating your eligibility for disability benefits.

  • Duration of Disability: For short term disability, you need to demonstrate that your condition or its treatment will render you unable to work for a period that aligns with your plan’s minimum duration requirement.  For long term disability, the expectation is that your inability to work will extend beyond the short term period, usually requiring evidence that your condition could last for several months or years.

  • Waiting Periods and Exclusions: Be aware of any waiting periods before benefits begin and check for specific exclusions or limitations related to pre-existing conditions in your plan.

  • Continuous Evaluation: Most plans require ongoing proof of your disability, which means you might need to submit regular updates on your condition, including medical records or statements from your healthcare provider, to maintain your benefits.

It’s important to carefully review your disability insurance policies to understand the specific definitions and requirements for disability due to breast cancer.  Given the complexities of ERISA plans and the critical nature of securing benefits during such a challenging time, you may also find it beneficial to consult with a long term disability lawyer to guide you through the process and ensure that your rights are fully protected.


How Do I Start the Process of Filing for Short or Long Term Disability for Breast Cancer?

filing a disability claim for breast cancer

Initiating a claim for disability insurance benefits due to breast cancer involves several key steps.  It’s essential to understand that while a diagnosis of breast cancer is a critical component of your claim, it alone does not guarantee approval.  The support and documentation from your doctor affirming your inability to work due to your condition or its treatment are crucial.

Here’s how to start the process of filing a claim:

  • Review Your Plan Documents: Start by thoroughly reviewing your disability insurance plan documents.  These outline the criteria for disability, your entitlements, and the claim filing process, along with any prudent deadlines.  Pay close attention to your plan’s definition of disability, as this defines the essential information for your claim.

  • Consult with a Long Term Disability Attorney: Before you notify your employer or fill out any paperwork, consider consulting with an attorney who specializes in ERISA and disability claims.   This step is crucial as such an attorney can offer invaluable advice on the complexities of ERISA regulations, assess your eligibility for benefits, help in gathering the necessary documentation, and ensure your claim meets all legal requirements.  They can also preemptively address potential issues that could arise during the claim process.

  • Notify Your Employer: Inform your employer about your intention to file a disability claim.  Your employer will provide you with the claim forms and detailed instructions on how to proceed, along with any specific company procedures or deadlines to observe.

  • Consult Your Doctor: Engage with your doctor or healthcare provider about your plan to file a disability claim.  Their support is essential, as they must provide detailed documentation of your breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and its impact on your work capability.  Comprehensive information from your healthcare provider is critical to getting your claim approved.

  • Complete the Claim Form: Carefully fill out the claim form provided by your plan or employer.  Ensure you detail how your breast cancer and its treatment impede your work capabilities.  Accuracy and completeness are crucial to avoid any processing delays.

  • Understand Deadlines Under ERISA: If you are covered by a group disability insurance policy, be aware of the strict deadlines set by ERISA for filing your claim and for your insurance company to make a decision.  Generally, claims must be filed within a certain timeframe after you become disabled.  Once your claim is submitted, your insurance company has 45 days to make a decision, which can be extended under specific conditions.  Adhering to these deadlines is essential.

  • Submit Your Claim: Submit your completed claim form and any required documentation as specified in your plan’s instructions.  It’s wise to keep copies of all submitted materials for your records.

  • Follow Up: Keep in touch with your insurance company or plan administrator to monitor your claim’s status and promptly address any requests for additional information.

Consulting with a long term disability attorney early in the process can significantly enhance your understanding of your rights and the strength of your claim.  Their expertise can prove invaluable by providing strategic advice and representation tailored to your specific situation.


What Documentation Do I Need to Support My Breast Cancer Disability Claim?

documentation for a breast cancer disability claim

To support your breast cancer disability claim effectively, compiling comprehensive documentation is crucial. This documentation should encompass both medical evidence of your condition and vocational evidence that illustrates how your breast cancer and its treatment impact your ability to work.

Medical evidence to support your breast cancer disability claim may include:

  • Diagnostic Reports: Include all relevant medical reports that confirm your breast cancer diagnosis.  This can involve biopsy results, imaging studies (such as mammograms, ultrasounds, MRI scans), and any other tests that have been used to diagnose your condition.

  • Treatment Records: Provide detailed records of your treatment plan and the treatments you have undergone, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or any other medical interventions.  These records should highlight the dates of treatment, the types of treatment administered, and any side effects or complications that have arisen.

  • Attending Physician Statements: Obtain detailed statements from your oncologist, primary care physician, and any other specialists involved in your care.  These statements should specifically address how your breast cancer and its treatment affect your physical and cognitive capabilities, emphasizing any limitations or restrictions that prevent you from working.

  • Side Effects Documentation: Include documentation of any side effects from your treatment, such as fatigue, nausea, cognitive issues (“chemo brain”), neuropathy, or any other condition that impairs your ability to perform work-related tasks.

  • Prognosis Information: Any information on your prognosis can also be relevant, especially if it pertains to long term effects of your treatment that may impact your work ability.

Alongside the medical evidence, make sure to include information pertaining to your occupational demands.  Vocational evidence to support your claim may include:

  • Job Description: A detailed description of your job duties and requirements can help establish the specific ways in which your breast cancer and its treatment prevent you from performing your job.  This should highlight the physical and cognitive demands of your job.

  • Performance Evaluations: If available, include recent performance evaluations that might demonstrate changes in your work performance due to your illness or its treatment.

  • Educational and Training Records: Documentation of your education, training, and any special skills or certifications can help in assessing your ability to perform other work, if applicable.

  • Statements from Employers or Coworkers: Written statements from your employer, supervisors, or coworkers detailing observed impacts of your condition on your work performance or attendance can be powerful evidence of your disability.

Collecting this comprehensive array of documentation serves multiple purposes.  It not only substantiates the seriousness of your condition and its direct impact on your ability to work but also aligns your claim with the specific criteria set forth by your disability insurance plan.  Given the complexity of assembling such a detailed and persuasive claim, consulting with an attorney experienced in disability insurance can be invaluable in ensuring that your documentation thoroughly supports your claim.


How Long Does It Take to Receive a Decision On A Short Or Long Term Disability Claim for Breast Cancer?

The timeline to receive a decision on a short term or long term disability claim for breast cancer can vary based on several factors, including the specific requirements of your insurance plan and the completeness of your application. Here’s a general outline of what to expect:

  • Short Term Disability (“STD”) Claims: Most STD claims are processed within a few weeks, typically 7 to 14 days after the insurance company receives a complete claim application.  This period allows your insurance company to review the medical documentation and any vocational evidence you’ve provided to support your claim.  The processing time can be extended if your insurance company requests additional medical information or if there are delays in receiving all necessary documentation from your healthcare providers.  Ensuring your application is thorough and includes comprehensive medical evidence from the start can help minimize these delays.

  • Long Term Disability (“LTD”) Claims: Long term disability claims generally take longer to process than short term claims due to the more extensive review required.  Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), insurance companies typically have up to 45 days to make a decision on LTD claims once they receive a complete application.  However, if the insurance company needs additional time for review, they are required to notify you and can extend the decision period by two 30-day extensions.


Can My Short or Long Term Disability Claim Be Denied for Breast Cancer?

Yes, disability insurance benefits for breast cancer can be denied for various reasons, even when the need for support might seem apparent to you and your healthcare providers.  Understanding the common grounds for denial and how to navigate these issues can significantly improve your chances of claim approval.

Here are some reasons your breast cancer short or long term disability claim might be denied:

  • Insufficient Medical Evidence: One of the most common reasons for the denial of disability benefits is insufficient medical evidence to support the claim.  Insurers require comprehensive documentation demonstrating how breast cancer prevents you from working.  When filing your claim, ensure that all medical records, diagnostic tests, treatment plans, and statements from your healthcare providers clearly document your diagnosis, treatment, side effects, and their impact on your ability to work.  

  • Pre-Existing Condition Clauses: Some disability insurance policies have pre-existing condition clauses that exclude coverage for conditions diagnosed or treated within a certain period before the insurance coverage began.  If your breast cancer was diagnosed or treated during this specified period, your claim could be denied under this clause.

  • Failure to Meet the Plan’s Definition of Disability: Disability insurance policies have specific definitions of what constitutes a disability.  Some policies may define disability as the inability to perform the duties of your own occupation, while others may define it as the inability to perform any occupation for which you are qualified based on education, training, and experience.  Before filing a claim, understand your policy’s definition of disability and gather evidence that aligns with this definition.  This may involve detailed job descriptions, statements from employers, and vocational evaluations to demonstrate how your condition prevents you from performing your own or any occupation, depending on your policy’s terms.

  • Lack of Compliance with Treatment: Denials can also occur if there is evidence of non-compliance with prescribed treatment plans.  Your insurance company may argue that non-compliance indicates that your breast cancer is not as disabling as claimed.  To avoid this, make sure to follow your prescribed treatment plan as closely as possible and keep detailed records of all treatments, medications, and doctor visits.  If there are legitimate reasons for not following a specific treatment (such as severe side effects), ensure that these reasons are well-documented by your healthcare providers.

Being proactive, thorough, and strategic in how you compile and present your claim can significantly reduce the risk of denial and support your pursuit of the benefits you need during a challenging time.


What Can I Do If My Short or Long Term Disability Claim for Breast Cancer Is Denied?

If your disability claim for breast cancer is denied, you have the right to appeal the decision.  The appeals process is a critical opportunity to contest the denial and provide additional evidence supporting your claim.  

Your insurance company must provide a written explanation for the denial of your claim, detailing the specific reasons for the decision and referencing the plan provisions on which the denial is based.  This letter also outlines your right to appeal and the deadline for submitting your appeal.  ERISA regulations require that you be given at least 180 days from the receipt of the denial letter to file your appeal.  This timeframe is crucial as it allows you adequate time to gather additional evidence and consult with an attorney.

The appeal is your chance to submit new or additional evidence that was not included with your initial claim.  This can include more detailed medical records, letters from your healthcare providers, new test results, or any other documentation that supports the severity of your breast cancer and its impact on your ability to work.  You can also include personal statements, statements from colleagues, or family members about how your breast cancer affects your daily life and job performance.  Your appeal must be submitted in writing.  It should address your insurance company’s reasons for the denial as stated in the denial letter, and systematically refute them with additional evidence and arguments.

Navigating the ERISA appeals process can be complex and challenging.  Consulting with an attorney who specializes in ERISA disability claims can significantly increase your chances of a successful appeal.  An experienced attorney can help you understand the intricacies of the law, ensure that your appeal meets all regulatory requirements, assist in gathering and presenting evidence, and represent you in dealings with the insurance company.  Securing knowledgeable experienced representation can dramatically improve your chances of overturning a denial and securing the disability benefits you need.


How Do I Manage My Disability Insurance Benefits While Undergoing Breast Cancer Treatment?

managing a disability claim while receiving breast cancer treatment

Managing your disability insurance benefits while undergoing breast cancer treatment requires careful attention to the requirements of your insurance policy, as well as proactive communication with your insurance company and healthcare providers.

Here are some tips to help you stay compliant with plan requirements and navigate benefit management effectively during this challenging time:

  • Review Your Policy Details: Start by thoroughly understanding your disability insurance policy, including the benefits period, coverage specifics, and any obligations you have for reporting and documentation.  Knowing these details will help you comply with all requirements and avoid any issues that could interrupt your benefits.

  • Provide Regular Medical Updates: Submit all required medical information and updates as requested by your insurance company.  This includes treatment records, progress reports from your healthcare providers, and any changes in your treatment plan.  Keeping a personal file of all submitted documents and correspondence with your insurer can be helpful for tracking and future reference.

  • Document Treatment and Side Effects: Keep detailed records of your breast cancer treatment, including dates of treatment, types of treatment received, and any side effects experienced.  This documentation can be crucial for supporting the continuation of your benefits, especially if your treatment plan changes or if you experience new or worsening symptoms.

  • Understand Benefit Duration and Limitations: Be aware of the duration of your disability benefits and any limitations or exclusions that might affect your coverage over time.  If your policy includes a transition from short term to long term disability benefits, understand the requirements and timelines for making this transition smoothly.

  • Consult with An Attorney: Managing disability benefits while undergoing treatment can be overwhelming.  Don’t hesitate to consult with an long term disability attorney experienced in navigating both ERISA and individual disability insurance claims.  They can provide valuable guidance and support to ensure you maintain your benefits throughout your treatment.

Navigating your disability insurance benefits while undergoing breast cancer treatment requires diligent management and communication.  By staying informed, keeping detailed records, and actively engaging with your insurance provider and healthcare team, you can help ensure that you receive the benefits you’re entitled to during this challenging time.


How Can The Maddox Firm Prove My Breast Cancer Short or Long Term Disability Claim?

The Maddox Firm | Long Term Disability & ERISA

The Maddox Firm understands the complexities of filing a breast cancer short or long term disability claim and are dedicated to supporting you through every step of the process.  Our experienced team employs a comprehensive strategy to ensure your claim is thoroughly prepared and vigorously defended.

Here are a few ways we can help prove your breast cancer short and/or long term disability claim:

  • We Examine Your Policy and Assess Your Claim: Our initial step involves a thorough review of your disability insurance policy, focusing on understanding the specific terms and conditions.  We assess how the policy defines disability, exclusions, and any limitations.  This detailed analysis helps us to craft a claim strategy that aligns with your policy’s requirements and enhances the likelihood of securing your benefits.

  • We Handle All Communications with Your Insurance Company: Dealing with insurance companies can be particularly stressful for individuals undergoing breast cancer treatment.  Recognizing this, The Maddox Firm takes on the responsibility of all communication with your insurance company.  This includes submitting claims, relaying information, and responding to requests for documentation.  Our goal is to shield you from additional stress, allowing you to concentrate on your health and recovery.

  • We Help You Obtain Evidence to Support Your Claim: Securing comprehensive medical evidence is crucial for breast cancer disability claims.  We collaborate with your healthcare providers to gather all necessary documentation, including diagnostic tests, treatment records, and detailed statements about how your condition impacts your daily functions and work capabilities.  If needed, we will refer you to undergo additional assessments such as a neuropsychological evaluation or Functional Capacity Evaluation for further evidence to support your claim.  We ensure your claim comprehensively reflects the severity of your condition.

  • We Handle Appeals and Litigation: Should your claim be denied, The Maddox Firm is equipped to pursue all avenues of appeal and, if necessary, litigation.  Our approach to appeals involves a meticulous review of the denial, preparation of a robust appeal package with additional evidence, and persuasive legal arguments tailored to breast cancer claims.  We are committed to fighting for your rights, drawing on our extensive experience with ERISA and disability claims to advocate for the benefits you are entitled to.

At The Maddox Firm, we are acutely aware of the challenges faced by individuals with breast cancer when seeking disability benefits.  Whether you are looking for assistance in navigating the short term disability or long term disability claims process, appealing a claim denial, or litigating a final adverse short term or long term disability decision, The Maddox Firm can help.  The experienced team at The Maddox Firm will examine your insurance policy, correspondence from your insurance company, medical records, and any other relevant documentation in order to give you personalized guidance on how we can help you win your short and/or long term disability claim. Our New Jersey and New York long term disability attorneys help clients nationwide.




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