Most Americans know someone with cancer, or have lost someone to cancer. Cancer is an all-too-common diagnosis in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2019 alone, nearly 1.8 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed — and over 600,000 people will die from cancer.
If you have been diagnosed with cancer, you are likely experiencing a range of feelings: fear, anger, sadness, and worry. It is natural to be scared about how cancer will affect you and your family. For many people, an additional concern often arises: how will my cancer treatment impact my ability to work — and to earn money?
For those with long-term disability insurance, applying for benefits may seem like the best way to maintain income while taking leave to seek treatment for cancer. Unfortunately, even though cancer is a serious — and sometimes terminal — illness, this diagnosis alone does not guarantee approval of benefits. If you have been diagnosed with cancer, read on to learn more about when long-term disability insurance typically covers cancer.
Why A Cancer Diagnosis Does Not Guarantee Coverage
The most important thing to understand about long-term disability (LTD) insurance is that this type of policy only provides benefits for covered disabilities. In other words, you need to be limited in your ability to work in order to qualify for LTD benefits. In addition, coverage does not kick in until you have been on leave for a set period of time (typically 6 months).
What does this mean? A diagnosis alone is generally not enough to qualify for benefits. Even if you are diagnosed with cancer, your application for LTD insurance benefits may not be approved.
Picture this scenario: you are diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. While the news is scary, it is also good: the cancer was caught early, and it is very treatable. You take several weeks off of work to have surgery and radiation, and then return to work with no lingering effects.
In this situation, if you applied for LTD benefits, your application would be denied. Most importantly, your leave was relatively short, and most LTD policies would not start coverage until you had been off work due to a disability for 6 months or longer (the “elimination period”). In addition, you were able to return to work and perform your job — so you are not limited in your ability to work.
When You May Qualify for Benefits If You Have Cancer
Of course, many people who have been diagnosed with cancer are not so lucky as to need just a few weeks off of work for surgery and radiation. Others require much more invasive treatment, including more extensive surgery, hospitalization, and chemotherapy. In these situations, there is a greater likelihood of being approved for LTD benefits.
People who are undergoing intense, active treatment that prevent them from working will likely be approved for disability benefits while receiving treatment. However, once treatment has been completed and the individual is able to return to work, the benefits will likely cease. It is important to remember that LTD coverage typically starts after the first 6 months of disability leave, so shorter-term leave for treatment will not likely be covered.
In some situations, even after treatment has ended, a person experiences lingering effects, such as fatigue, depression, or difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness that is often referred to as “chemo brain.” It can be more difficult to secure LTD benefits for the side effects of cancer treatment once it is over and the cancer is in remission. Insurance companies may view these symptoms as subjective and argue that without a diagnosis, there is no disability.
Work with a Long-Term Disability Benefits Attorney Can Help
It can be challenging to qualify for LTD benefits even with a serious, potential life-threatening diagnosis like cancer. A long-term disability benefits attorney can advocate on your behalf to increase the potential that your application for coverage will be approved.
For more than 20 years, Bross & Frankel has represented clients seeking disability benefits in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We use our experience and knowledge of the law to help our clients get the benefits that they deserve. To schedule a free claim review or to learn more about how we can help you, contact our office today at 856-795-8880, or reach out to us online.