Lung Cancer and Long Term Disability: What You Need to Know

Disability Wiki.

How can I get disability for lung cancer?

Digital blue human with highlighted lungs on dark blue backgroundMany people with lung cancer understandably find themselves unable to work due to their symptoms and the side effects of cancer treatment.  If you’ve received a lung cancer diagnosis, you are likely facing an overwhelming amount of anxiety and concern for your future health and financial security.  Understanding how the long term disability insurance claim process works can help equip you to file a successful long term disability claim if needed.

When filing a long term disability insurance claim due to your lung cancer, your insurance company will require you provide evidence of your disabling symptoms and explain in clear detail how they prevent you from working.  Below we will explain the disabling symptoms of lung cancer, including side effects of treatments such as chemotherapy, and strategies for proving your lung cancer disability to your insurance company.


What are the disabling symptoms of lung cancer?

Symptoms of lung cancer may include:

    • Recurring dry cough
    • Coughing up blood, phlegm, or mucus
    • Shortness of breath
    • Joint and bone pain
    • Fatigue
    • Chest pain

Stages of Lung Cancer

The severity and progression of lung cancer is measured in stages, from Stage 0 through Stage 4.  The “TNM” system is typically used to determine the stage of a patient’s lung cancer.  TNM stands for tumor, node involvement, and metastasis.  By evaluating a tumor’s size, whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, and whether the cancer has spread to other systems (such as the liver, bones, kidney, etc.), an oncologist will conclude the stage of the cancer.

While later stages of lung cancer generally denote a more severe condition, you may qualify for long term disability insurance benefits at any stage.  It all depends on the nature of your symptoms and, as we’ll detail below, the side effects of any treatment.

Lung Cancer Treatment Side Effects

Cancer Treatment - Printed with Mint Green Pills, Injections and Syringe. Medical Concept with Selective Focus.There are several ways to treat lung cancer, including:

    • Chemotherapy
    • Radiation therapy
    • Surgery

Long term disability insurance will cover any disability arising from lung cancer treatment.  For example, if doctors catch your lung cancer in an early stage, you may not be suffering from direct cancer symptoms.  However, if you undergo chemotherapy to treat the lung cancer, you may suffer cognitive deficits as a result of the treatment.  This is commonly referred to as “chemo brain.”  It is possible to receive long term disability insurance benefits due to your chemotherapy side effects.


How do I prove my lung cancer is disabling?

While it may seem clear to you that your lung cancer prevents you from work, your disability insurer will not approve your claim without evidence substantiating your disability.  Your insurer will require proof that your lung cancer symptoms have impeded your ability to work.  This evidence can come in various forms.

Medical Evidence

lung cancer disabilityMedical evidence is the most important evidence you can put forth to support your lung cancer disability insurance claim.  This medical evidence can include imaging used to diagnose your cancer or track its progression, blood testing, records of chemotherapy treatment, hospitalizations, and any other medical records you can obtain from your providers.

Aside from the objective testing and medical records, you may ask your oncologist to write a letter in support of your disability claim.  This letter can elaborate on your diagnostic history, ongoing symptoms, outcome of treatment, and your restrictions and limitations as a result of your lung cancer.  Your doctor can use this letter to provide an opinion on whether you can return to work at this time.

Additional Medical Testing Options

Sometimes medical records with your regular providers do not capture the full scope of how your lung cancer prevents you from working.  This can be especially true if you suffer from more subjective symptoms such as fatigue or chronic pain, or if you have experienced cognitive deficits due to chemotherapy treatment.

In these cases, it may be helpful to pursue additional medical testing such as a Functional Capacity Evaluation or a Neuropsychological Evaluation.

A Function Capacity Evaluation (“FCE”) measures your level of physical functioning in detail.  The testing is typically performed over two days and evaluates your ability to sit, stand and walk for extended periods, as well as your grip strength, hand dexterity, and other functions.  The FCE also has embedded validity testing.  Validity testing ensures that you are putting forth your best effort and verifies the results as accurate to your disability insurer.

A Neuropsychological Evaluation assesses your cognitive abilities.  The testing provides an analysis of your memory, attention span, problem solving ability, language, and other mental functions.  If your chemotherapy treatment has impacted your cognitive skills, the Neuropsychological Evaluation will measure which areas have been impacted and whether those deficits preclude you from working.

Vocational Assessment

One aspect of your disability insurance claim will be proving you cannot perform the material duties of your occupation.  Your insurance company may not understand the extent of your occupational role based off of a resume or job description.  You can undergo a vocational assessment to substantiate your lung cancer long term disability claim.

A vocational assessment is performed by a vocational expert.  The expert will analyze your job title, work history, education, and current occupational responsibilities.  The expert will also review your medical records to understand your medical condition and symptoms.  In addition, the expert will interview you personally to round out their information on your job role, duties, and how your disability impacts your ability to perform your occupation.  The vocational expert can then provide an opinion on whether you are able to work, given the nature of your disability and your specific occupation.


Case Study: Lung Cancer

Priya was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer.  Her doctors recommended an intense course of experimental treatment that would prevent her from continuing her rigorous work as a pediatrician.  After many years of building her own practice, Priya had multiple disability insurance policies, both group and private, to provide her with disability coverage.  While Priya did get her disability claims approved without issue, the insurers’ constant requests for updated information became overwhelming.  It was too much to handle while also dealing with her lung cancer treatment.

Priya decided to consult with Riemer Hess about monitoring her disability claims.  Riemer Hess advised her on what to expect with the process and how a disability claim would affect her ability to do volunteer work and further pursue her education.  Impressed with the attorneys at Riemer Hess, Priya chose to retain them to assist with her multiple disability insurance claims.

Riemer Hess immediately took over communications with Priya’s insurers.  Riemer Hess requested—and was granted—an extension to submit the updated evidence of her disability.  They then gathered the necessary medical records, vocational evidence, and financial information on Priya’s behalf.  All of Priya’s claims were approved for continued benefits.  Additionally, Riemer Hess referred Priya to a trusted Social Security Disability firm who could help her apply, and once she was approved, helped review the SSDI offset calculations to make sure the insurers were paying their fair share.

Priya was grateful to no longer have to keep up with all of her insurers’ deadlines, and continued to retain Riemer Hess to monitor her disability claims.


How can an attorney help me get long term disability for lung cancer?

Lung cancer is a devastating diagnosis that for many results in long term disability.  To file a successful long term disability claim, you must support your claim with sufficient medical evidence and proof of appropriate treatment.  Knowing how to substantiate your claim will significantly increase your chances of approval.

An experienced long term disability attorney will know how best to substantiate your claim with evidence of your lung cancer diagnosis and symptoms, as well as the physical, cognitive, and emotional impairments your condition causes, and how they specifically interfere with your job duties.

If you’re looking to file a long term disability insurance claim for lung cancer, appeal a wrongful claim denial, or litigate your insurer, Riemer Hess can help. Contact us today at (212) 297-0700 or click the button below for a consultation on your disability case.

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