Long Term Disability for Chemo Brain and Other Chemotherapy Side Effects
While chemotherapy is a common and effective treatment for cancer, it can have powerful effects on a patient’s brain function. The cognitive impairment or brain fog caused by chemotherapy can impact many areas of executive function, including memory, attention span, and ability to multi-task. Many cancer survivors call this “chemo brain.” These chemotherapy side effects can result in short term disability or long term disability for many individuals.
Chemo brain typically lasts for up to six months after a round of chemo treatment before gradually improving. However, some people experience chemo brain for years, or even on a permanent basis. If you are struggling with chemo brain and have long term disability insurance coverage, our team at The Maddox Firm can help you win your short term disability and long term disability benefits.
At The Maddox Firm, we understand how devastating the effects of chemo brain can be on your career and day-to-day life. We also know how to prove the severity of cognitive-based conditions such as chemo brain to the insurance companies. We’ll fight on your behalf to win you the disability benefits you deserve.
How We Win Long Term Disability Insurance Benefits for Chemo Brain
We Review Your Long Term Disability Policy
When it comes to proving that you are entitled to long term disability benefits for chemo brain, the first step is to review the details of your long term disability insurance policy. The Maddox Firm will examine your long term disability insurance policy terms to determine what your insurance company requires to approve your claim.
Most people do not understand long term disability insurance even if they have it. It’s easy to think long term disability insurance only covers debilitating, extreme circumstances. However, nearly all long term disability insurance policies define “disabled” as being unable to work in your own occupation – at least for the first 2 years of benefits. This is referred to as the “own occupation standard.”
After a certain time frame, usually 24 months, your long term disability policy may switch to an “any occupation” standard. We call this a change in definition. What this means is that for the first two years of long term disability insurance benefits, you only need to prove that your chemo brain disables you from working in your particular job role. After that time, you will then have to present evidence that your condition impairs you from working in any job role reasonable for your education, training, and experience.
Some long term disability policies do not have a “change in definition” and remain “own occupation” policies throughout the benefit period – usually to retirement age.
Make sure to read your full long term disability insurance policy. Having an “own occupation” policy means you have a lower bar to clear to benefit approval. If your job necessitates a high level of executive function, any level of cognitive impairment can leave you struggling to work.
For example, your job may require you to read lengthy, detailed contracts, and your chemo brain symptoms cause you to have to stop and start over repeatedly, significantly lowering your productivity. Or maybe you need to attend frequent meetings with clients that involve long discussions about projects, and your chemo brain symptoms prevent you from following conversations or remembering key details. The inability to handle such duties due to your chemo brain can mean you qualify for long term disability benefits.
With an “own occupation” policy, it doesn’t matter that your chemo brain doesn’t leave you bedridden or completely nonfunctional. By your insurance company’s own policy terms, you are eligible for long term disability insurance benefits.
Other provisions you may want to consider include:
Elimination period or waiting period: An elimination period is the period of time that you must be disabled before the disability insurance company will begin paying benefits. Generally, this period of time is set at 90 or 180 days for employer provided long term disability plans. For long term disability policies bought separately, the elimination period can be as long as a full year.
Benefit percentage: The benefit percentage is the proportion of your prior income that you will receive in benefits. The most common percentage is 60%. Most long term disability plans provided by employers have a benefit percentage of 60%. In other long term disability policies, the percentage could be as low as 50% or as high as 80%.
Other income benefits or offsets: These provisions will describe the types of income that will reduce your long term disability benefit. For example, receiving Social Security Disability income will reduce your benefit by the amount you receive from the Social Security Administration.
We Gather Evidence of Your Chemo Brain Symptoms
While the bar is lower for “own occupation” long term disability policies, you will still have to present objective medical evidence of your chemo brain disability regardless. Only reporting your self-described symptoms to your insurance company is a surefire way to have your claim denied.
Proving your chemo brain symptoms to your insurance company presents many challenges. Chemo brain is sometimes referred to as an “invisible illness.” While the effects of it are profound, the symptoms are not visible. That unfortunately makes it all too easy for your insurance company to brush off your serious medical condition as insignificant and non-disabling. They may even attribute your symptoms to psychiatric conditions instead of chemotherapy side effects. This is because in most long term disability policies, mental illness disabilities are often limited to only two years of benefits.
The experienced team at The Maddox Firm
will work with your healthcare providers to ensure their visit notes and letters of support provide a complete picture of your chemo brain symptoms. We will also help you to complete a diary tracking your symptoms. Because your symptoms may not show up on test results, and because they may vary day-to-day, a symptom diary is a good way to show the long term disability insurance company that your symptoms are real.
We also will coordinate neuropsychological testing for you that gives the insurance company an in-depth, exhaustive, and objective evaluation of your cognitive impairment. A neuropsychological evaluation is a test that measures your cognitive abilities, including things like decision-making, reading, memory, and problem solving. The neuropsychological evaluation will also contain “validity tests” which will demonstrate that you put forth adequate effort throughout the evaluation, rendering the results valid.
The Maddox Firm knows exactly what objective evidence you need to make your long term disability claim as bulletproof as possible.
We Fight Back Against Your Insurance Company
Your insurance company will try every trick in the book not to pay out your long term disability benefits. They may request copious amounts of information from you, whether it’s medical records, statements from your physicians, or financial documents. They may even try to arrange an “independent medical examination” with one of their biased doctors. In these scenarios, it’s all too easy to fill one of their endless forms out wrong, have your doctor’s statements taken out of context, or make any other oversight that ends in your claim being denied. The whole process can be exhausting and overwhelming to handle on your own.
As mentioned above, a common tactic insurance companies utilize with chemo brain long term disability claims is to ascribe your symptoms to a psychiatric condition instead. In doing so, your insurance company can limit your benefit payout to two years. The Maddox Firm knows how to refute this tactic from the insurance companies. We will present the objective evidence, lobby for statements of support from your doctors, and make certain your insurance company classifies your chemo brain symptoms accurately.
With The Maddox Firm on your side, we take charge of all communications with your insurance company and make sure they treat your long term disability claim fairly. If your insurance company wants to schedule an independent medical examination, we can help postpone or cancel the exam. If the exam does go forward, we arrange for a medical professional to accompany you to the appointment and d