If you are unable to work due to lymphoma, short and long term disability insurance benefits can provide vital financial support. However, understanding and obtaining these benefits can be a complex and overwhelming process.
In this article, we’ll discuss the essential steps involved in securing short and long term disability benefits for lymphoma and how an experienced long term disability lawyer can help guide you through the process.
How Does Lymphoma Cause Disability?
Lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system, may cause disability, either from the disease itself or as a side effect of treatment. Physical and cognitive impairments may result that affect your ability to perform daily activities or work. Below, we’ll discuss the ways lymphoma and its treatment can lead to disability.
Physical Disability Due to Lymphoma
Lymphoma may cause physical disability, primarily depending on the type, stage, and severity of your disease. Here are some ways in which lymphoma can lead to physical disability:
Tumor Growth: Lymphoma originates in the lymphatic system, which is responsible for maintaining fluid balance and supporting the immune system. As lymphoma cells multiply and form tumors in lymph nodes or other organs, they can physically obstruct normal bodily functions. For example, tumors in lymph nodes can compress nearby blood vessels or nerves, leading to pain, swelling, and reduced mobility.
Organ Involvement: In advanced stages of lymphoma, cancer cells may infiltrate and damage vital organs such as the liver, spleen, bone marrow, or central nervous system. This can lead to organ dysfunction, pain, and physical limitations.
Fatigue: Fatigue is a common symptom in lymphoma patients and can limit your ability to perform daily activities, including physical functions, leading to physical disability.
Infections: Lymphoma and its treatment can weaken the immune system, making patients more susceptible to infections. Recurrent or severe infections can lead to physical disability by causing prolonged illness and hospitalizations.
Complications: Lymphoma and its treatments can result in complications such as bleeding disorders, blood clots, or fluid buildup in the lungs or abdomen. These complications can cause physical impairments and discomfort.
Anemia: Lymphoma can lead to anemia, a condition characterized by a low red blood cell count. Anemia can result in fatigue, weakness, and reduced oxygen delivery to tissues.
Mobility Issues: Depending on the location and size of lymphoma tumors, you may experience mobility issues due to pain, swelling, or mechanical obstruction. For instance, lymphoma in the abdomen may cause digestive problems or affect mobility.
Bone Involvement: Lymphoma can affect bone marrow, leading to a decrease in the production of red and white blood cells and platelets. This can result in anemia, infections, and bleeding problems, all of which can cause physical complications.
Chronic Pain: You may experience chronic pain as a result of the disease or its treatment. This pain can limit physical activities and lead to disability.
Cognitive Disability Due to Lymphoma
Lymphoma itself typically does not directly cause cognitive disability, but there are several factors associated with lymphoma and its treatment that can contribute to cognitive changes or impairments. These cognitive changes are often referred to as “chemo brain,” and they can affect memory, concentration, and other cognitive functions.
Here are some ways in which lymphoma and its treatment may lead to cognitive difficulties:
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a common treatment for lymphoma, and it can have side effects on the central nervous system. Some chemotherapy drugs can cross the blood-brain barrier and affect brain function. These drugs may disrupt neural pathways and lead to cognitive symptoms such as memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and mental fogginess.
Radiation Therapy: In some cases, radiation therapy may be used to treat lymphoma. Depending on the location of radiation treatment, it can affect brain function and cause cognitive changes, especially if the radiation is directed toward the head or central nervous system.
Medication Side Effects: Medications used to manage symptoms and side effects of lymphoma and its treatment may have cognitive side effects. For example, pain medications or medications to manage nausea may cause drowsiness, confusion, or difficulty with concentration.
Fatigue: Lymphoma patients often experience severe fatigue, making it challenging to stay alert and focused, which can contribute to cognitive difficulties.
Sleep Disturbances: Many lymphoma patients experience sleep disturbances, including insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns. Poor sleep quality can negatively affect cognitive function, as the brain requires adequate rest to function optimally.
Anemia: Lymphoma can lead to anemia, a condition characterized by a low red blood cell count. Anemia can result in reduced oxygen delivery to the brain, which can lead to cognitive symptoms such as fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and memory problems.
Lymphoma Treatment Side Effects
As mentioned above, different treatment options for lymphoma can create serious side effects that cause or contribute to disability.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy works by killing rapidly dividing cancer cells, but it can also affect healthy cells in the body. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, anemia, neuropathy (nerve damage), and increased susceptibility to infections. Severe side effects can lead to fatigue, weakness, and difficulty performing daily activities.
Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to target and destroy cancer cells. Side effects may include skin changes (redness, itching, or blistering), fatigue, sore throat (if the treatment area includes the neck), and, in some cases, long-term damage to surrounding tissues or organs, which can result in physical limitations.
Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy drugs help the immune system fight cancer cells. Side effects can include fatigue, fever, chills, nausea, and skin rashes. In some cases, immune-related side effects may occur, affecting various organs, such as the skin, lungs, or intestines.
Targeted Therapy: Targeted therapy drugs are designed to specifically target cancer cells. Side effects can include skin rashes, diarrhea, liver problems, and hypertension. Severe side effects may result in physical limitations and difficulties with daily activities.
Stem Cell Transplantation: Stem cell transplantation is used in certain cases to replace damaged bone marrow with healthy stem cells. The procedure itself can be physically demanding and may lead to complications such as infections, graft-versus-host disease (if donor cells are used), and long-term organ damage.
Surgery: Surgery is typically used to remove lymphoma-affected lymph nodes or masses. Surgical side effects can include pain, scarring, wound infections, and, in some cases, damage to nearby tissues or organs, which can result in physical limitations and disability.
Hematopoietic Growth Factors: These drugs stimulate the production of blood cells. Side effects can include bone pain, allergic reactions, and, rarely, spleen enlargement, which can cause abdominal pain and discomfort.
How Do Insurance Companies Evaluate Lymphoma Disability Claims?
Your insurance company will evaluate your lymphoma disability claim to assess whether your condition and symptoms meet the definition of disability as set out in your insurance policy. While a lymphoma diagnosis alone is very serious, your insurance company will require proof of your physical and/or cognitive limitations in order to approve your claim. This means you must present your insurance company with substantial evidence of how and why your lymphoma prevents you from working.
Remember, lymphoma is not a uniform condition; it encompasses various subtypes, stages, and levels of severity. Your insurance company may struggle to understand the nuances of lymphoma and its impact on your ability to work. Some individuals may have indolent (slow-growing) lymphomas that allow them to continue working, while others with aggressive lymphomas may become disabled more quickly.
As mentioned earlier, chemotherapy and other treatments for lymphoma can lead to cognitive issues (“chemo brain”) and extreme fatigue. These symptoms can be challenging to quantify and evaluate in terms of their impact on your ability to work. Your insurance company may be skeptical of the cognitive impact of lymphoma treatment in comparison to physical functional limitations. Complications related to lymphoma treatment, such as infections, organ damage, or secondary cancers, can also lead to additional challenges in evaluating ongoing disability.
When applying for short or long term disability due to lymphoma, it is recommended you consult with an experienced disability attorney who can help you navigate the claims process. An attorney will understand how to overcome challenges encountered and present your claim with the strongest evidence possible.
What Evidence Can I Submit for My Lymphoma Disability Claim?
When preparing your lymphoma short or long term disability claim, you must provide your insurance company with comprehensive evidence demonstrating that you are unable to work. Insurance companies typically require evidence that proves both your medical disability and your inability to perform the material duties of your occupation. Here we’ll discuss the medical and vocational evidence you can submit to support your lymphoma disability claim.
Proving Medical Disability Due to Lymphoma
The strength of your lymphoma disability claim largely depends on the quality and quantity of medical documentation you submit. Here are the key types of medical evidence you may use to support your lymphoma claim:
Diagnosis Documentation: Submit medical reports confirming your diagnosis of lymphoma, including the specific subtype and stage, and pathology reports from biopsies or other diagnostic procedures.
Medical Records: Medical records can include regular progress notes from your healthcare providers detailing your ongoing medical condition, symptom management, and response to treatment. Reports and notes from any of your treating specialists, such as your oncologist or hematologist, will be the most important as they provide the most detail on your lymphoma.
Treatment Records: This can include detailed records of your lymphoma treatment plan, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, stem cell transplant, surgical procedures, or other treatments and their side effects.
Imaging and Scans: Radiology reports and images (e.g., CT scans, PET scans, MRI scans) showing the extent of lymphoma involvement and response to treatment.
Laboratory Results: Blood test results, such as complete blood counts (CBCs) and blood chemistry panels, to document changes in your health status, including anemia, infections, or organ dysfunction, and evidence of specific markers or indicators related to lymphoma, such as elevated LDH (lactate dehydrogenase) levels.
Physician Statements: Statements and reports from your treating oncologist or hematologist explaining your lymphoma diagnosis, symptoms, treatment, and prognosis can provide your insurance company valuable information on how your lymphoma prevents you from working. These medical opinions should address the limitations and restrictions imposed by your lymphoma and its treatment, including any physical or cognitive impairments.
Medication Records: Documentation of medications prescribed for lymphoma treatment, including dosage and frequency. Include records of any medication side effects and their impact on your ability to function.
Hospitalization and Surgery Records: Provide your insurance company with records of hospitalizations related to lymphoma, chemotherapy, or complications, and surgical reports if you underwent procedures such as lymph node biopsies or stem cell transplants.
Functional Capacity Evaluation (“FCE”): An FCE is a thorough assessment administered by a medical expert, often an occupational therapist. This evaluation examines your functional capabilities, encompassing physical strength, endurance, and mobility. The findings of an FCE can offer your insurance company concrete proof of your physical restrictions and limitations.
Neuropsychological Evaluation: If you experience significant cognitive impairment due to lymphoma treatment, a neuropsychological evaluation can provide your insurance company with objective proof of your deficits. The evaluation is conducted by a neuropsychologist to gauge your memory, attention, executive function, and other cognitive skills. The evaluation report offers valuable and objective insights into the impact of your lymphoma treatment on your cognitive abilities.
Proving You Cannot Work Due to Lymphoma Disability
Vocational evidence can be used to demonstrate how the functional limitations caused by your lymphoma prevent you from performing the material duties of your occupation.
Here are some examples of vocational evidence you can use to support your ALS disability claim:
Educational Background and Work History: Your resume can be used to outline your education, training, and previous and current employment.
Official Job Description: Obtain your employer’s official job description for your role. This can demonstrate in more detail the essential functions (both physical and cognitive), requirements, and skill levels associated with the work you perform.
Vocational Assessment: A vocational expert can evaluate how your lymphoma symptoms affect your ability to perform the required functions of your occupation. The vocational assessment analyzes your occupation, the required functions, your physical and cognitive limitations due to your lymphoma, and whether you are able to perform the essential job duties with your symptoms.
Statements from Employers and Colleagues: Former employers, colleagues, or supervisors can provide personal statements attesting to your occupational demands and responsibilities and the impact of your lymphoma symptoms on your job performance.
Personal Affidavit: Consider writing a personal affidavit to explain your background, the responsibilities and required tasks of your role, and how your lymphoma has prevented you from meeting the demands of your occupation and affected you in other areas of your life. This is an opportunity to expand on the details of what functioning your job requires that your other vocational evidence may not include already.
How Can The Maddox Firm Prove My Lymphoma Disability Claim?
An experienced long term disability attorney can make all the difference when you are looking to secure disability benefits for lymphoma. The experienced team at The Maddox Firm has helped many clients prove their short and long term disability claims for lymphoma and related cancers. We can help you navigate the complex claims process and maximize your chances of claim approval.
Here are a few ways The Maddox Firm can help prove your lymphoma short or long term disability claim:
The Maddox Firm examines your policy. Your disability insurance policy holds the key to what your insurance company requires to approve your claim. It can be difficult to understand the nuances of policy language if you’re not familiar. Our team will examine your policy and explain to you the eligibility criteria you must meet to be awarded benefits. We also will point out any potential roadblocks, such as pre-existing condition clauses, and formulate a strategy to get your claim approved.
The Maddox Firm gathers and organizes your evidence. The Maddox Firm will work on your behalf to request and obtain all of your medical records. We review all medical records to look for any inaccuracies, missing information, or potential “red flags” that we can preemptively address when submitting your claim.
The Maddox Firm makes sure your claim has as much support as possible. If necessary, The Maddox Firm can refer you for additional testing, such as a functional capacity evaluation or neuropsychological evaluation. Our team will also coordinate with your oncologists, hematologists, or other providers to secure written supplemental statements to further support your claim.
The Maddox Firm represents you in the event of an appeal or litigation. If you are facing a claim denial or termination, The Maddox Firm will represent you for an administrative appeal or litigation with your insurance company.
Whether you are looking for assistance in navigating the claims process, appealing a claim denial, or litigating a final adverse decision, The Maddox Firm can help with your lymphoma short or long term disability claim. The expert 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 lymphoma short or long term disability claim.