Returning To Work After Breast Cancer
If youve taken time off or reduced your working hours during your breast cancer treatment, when you decide to return to work will depend to some extent on what your job involves and your financial situation.
If your job is physically or mentally stressful, you may need a longer period of time off before you feel ready to return.
Returning to work can be a very positive step and may help some people move forward by regaining some normality. However, many people feel disappointed and frustrated that it isnt as easy as they imagined. This may be because they are experiencing side effects of their treatment such as fatigue, or are adjusting to life after a cancer diagnosis and the emotional changes this can bring.
It can be helpful to discuss your plan to return to work with your treatment team, occupational health or human resources department and your manager. Your employer is required to make reasonable adjustments during the period that you are returning to work.; For example, a phased return to work can help you gradually adjust to your normal working pattern. There may be other adjustments that benefit you and if you need help with this, ask your treatment team what theyd recommend and share this with your employer.
You may be able to get other practical support during and after treatment.
Although it is not possible for everyone, some people .
Determining Your Residual Functional Capacity
When you do not meet or equal a disability listing contained in the Listing of Impairments, usually because your breast cancer is not as advanced as the disability listing requires, the SSA will assess your residual functional capacity to see if you are unable to work any type of job. Your RFC is the most you can do in a work setting . The SSA will determine the length of time you are able to sit, stand, and walk; the amount of weight that you can lift and carry; how well you can use your hands and arms; whether you can understand and follow instructions; and whether you can work with the public and coworkers. The SSA will use your RFC to decide if there are any jobs you can perform. If you are unable to perform any jobs, you will be considered disabled.
In addition, depression and memory loss, which affect some patients going through chemotherapy, radiation, and/or surgery, can affect your ability to concentrate on work tasks or follow simple instructions.
To create your RFC, the SSA will gather copies of your medical reports to learn about your symptoms and their severity. To help the SSA form a accurate opinion, it’s helpful for you to obtain a detailed medical opinion from your treating doctor regarding your ability to perform work. Most helpful would be if your doctor can fill out an RFC form.
|Take our disability quiz to help you determine whether you qualify for benefits.|
Keeping Medical Information Confidential
With limited exceptions, an employer must keep confidential any medical information it learns about an applicant or employee. Under the following circumstances, however, an employer may disclose that an employee has cancer:
- to supervisors and managers, if necessary to provide a reasonable accommodation or meet an employee’s work restrictions;
- to first aid and safety personnel if an employee may need emergency treatment or require some other assistance at work;
- to individuals investigating compliance with the ADA and similar state and local laws; and
- where needed for workers’ compensation or insurance purposes .
8. May an employer tell employees who ask why their co-worker is allowed to do something that generally is not permitted that she is receiving a reasonable accommodation?
No. Telling co-workers that an employee is receiving a reasonable accommodation amounts to a disclosure that the employee has a disability. Rather than disclosing that the employee is receiving a reasonable accommodation, the employer shouldfocus on the importance of maintaining the privacy of all employees and emphasize that its policy is to refrain from discussing the work situation of any employee with co-workers. Employers may be able to avoid many of these kinds of questions bytraining all employees on the requirements of equal employment laws, including the ADA.
9. If an employee has lost a lot of weight or appears fatigued, may an employer explain to co-workers that the employee has cancer?
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Review Your Medicare Choices Each Year
Whether you enroll in original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan, you generally do not need to renew coverage every year. That being said, plans are sometimes discontinued or their benefits and costs may change to the point that the plan no longer meets your needs. Its not unusual for pharmacy and provider networks to change, for costs to increase, or the list of covered prescription drugs to vary. Thats why its a good idea to review your plan each year and compare it against your current health care needs.
Your health insurer is required to send you an Annual Notice of Change by September 30 each year. The notice outlines any changes in coverage and costs expected to begin the following January. If you decide to change your health care plan after reviewing those updates, you can do so during Medicares open enrollment period. The period runs from October 15 to December 7. During this time, you can switch from original Medicare to Medicare Advantage or vice versa. You;can;switch from one;Medicare Advantage;plan to another or from one Medicare Part D plan to another. You can also enroll in Medicare Part D if you have not done so already, although late enrollment penalties may apply.
If you find that the new health care plan is not meeting your needs, you can reverse some plan decisions January 1 to March 31 of the following year. Guidance for the renewal process is offered through the U.S. governments phone line at 1-800-MEDICARE or through your local SHIP.
You May Be Eligible Pursuant To Section 1310 In The Listing Of Impairments
If you have breast cancer other than sarcoma then you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits pursuant to the specific breast cancer listing in the Listing of Impairments if one of the following is true:
You have locally advanced cancer. This includes inflammatory carcinoma, cancer of any size with direct extension to the chest wall or skin, or cancer of any size with metastases to the ipsilateral internal mammary nodes.
You have carcinoma with metastases to the supraclavicular or infraclavicular nodes, to 10 or more axillary nodes, or with distant metastases.
You have recurrent carcinoma .
You have small-cell carcinoma .
You have breast cancer with secondary lymphedema that is caused by anticancer therapy and treated by surgery to salvage or restore functioning of an upper extremity. This is considered a disability for at least 12 months from the date of surgery that treated your secondary lymphedema. After that, your eligibility will be evaluated based on any residual impairments you suffer.
These specific criteria are not the only way you may be found eligible for Social Security disability, however.
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Will You Be Eligible For Social Security Disability
Since you started working, a portion of each of your paychecks has gone to Social Security. You planned on that money for your retirement, but it is also available to you if you become permanently disabled and you cannot work.
Generally, in order to receive Social Security disability benefits, you must be unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to either last at least one year or result in death. If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer then there are several ways to prove your eligibility.
Against The Federal Government
If you are a federal employee or job applicant and you believe that a federal agency has discriminated against you, you have a right to file a complaint. Each agency is required to post information about how to contact the agency’s EEO Office.You can contact an EEO Counselor by calling the office responsible for the agency’s EEO complaints program. Generally, you must contact the EEO Counselor within 45 days from the day the discrimination occurred. In most cases the EEO Counselor willgive you the choice of participating either in EEO counseling or in an alternative dispute resolution program, such as a mediation program.
If you do not settle the dispute during counseling or through ADR, you can file a formal discrimination complaint against the agency with the agency’s EEO Office. You must file within 15 days from the day you receive notice from your EEOCounselor about how to file.
1 See 42 U.S.C. §12102; 29 C.F.R. §1630.2.
2 For example, disability laws in California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York apply to employers with fewer than 15 employees.
3 See “The Questions and Answers Series” under “Available Resources” on EEOC’s website at www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/disability.cfm
4 American Cancer Society , “Facts & Figures 2012” www.cancer.org/Research/CancerFactsFigures/index
5 “Cancer Prevalence: How Many People Have Cancer?” www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerBasics/cancer-prevalence .
8 See 29 C.F.R. §§1630.2 and 1630.2 .
9 Id. at. §1630.2.
10 Id. at §1630.2.
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When You Became Disabled Due To Cancer
People usually do not known exactly when they contracted cancer because each cancer grows at a different rate. If your tumor was deemed inoperable or otherwise untreatable, the SSA will likely use the date that the doctor rendered his or her prognosis as your disability onset date. However, you may be able to prove that you became disabled even before your prognosis was established.
To determine whether you were disabled prior to the time when your cancer was found to be untreatable, the SSA will consider the following factors:
- When you first reported symptoms to your doctor
- What type of cancer you were diagnosed with
- Where the cancer is located, and
- And how far the cancer had spread when it was first diagnosed.
Usually benefits are awarded up to six months prior to when the applicant was first diagnosed with cancer, unless there was sufficient evidence to prove otherwise.
Diagnosis Of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer screening tests include MRI imaging, mammograms, and biopsies. While these tests are useful in detecting most kinds of breast cancer, they cannot accurately diagnose inflammatory breast cancer. If there is a possibility of inflammatory breast cancer, a surgical biopsy should be done that includes a larger breast skin sample, as well as a sample of the underlying breast tissue. Oncologists are leaning toward PET scans as the preferred testing technique for inflammatory breast cancer, because it allows them to see more of the disease.
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Get An Early Start On Your Medicare Application
You become eligible for Medicare when you turn 65 and are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. You can choose to sign up then or hold off on the process if you still work and receive benefits through your employer. Either way, it is important to note that enrollment is not automatic unless you already draw retirement benefits from Social Security.
The enrollment period begins 3 months before your 65th birthday and ends 3 months after. Its very important that you meet the deadline. Missing the enrollment window can leave you without insurance coverage for months. Its also common for penalty fees to be added to your plan costs. These fees are permanent, so you may find yourself paying higher rates for health care for the rest of your life.
The U.S. Social Security Administration handles Medicare enrollment and is your main point of contact for questions and concerns throughout the process. You can apply online on this U.S. government website or visit a local Social Security office. You can also call the main office at 1-800-772-1213 for more information.
Disabilities Related To Cancer Treatment
Even if a patients cancer treatment is successful, they can be left with serious impairments. For example, heart, lung, liver, and bone problems have been linked to chemotherapy, while cognitive dysfunction and bone weakness can be long-term effects of radiation.
If you develop a disabling condition as the result of successful cancer treatment, your disability will be evaluated without considering the cancer diagnosis. The Blue Book criteria for your specific condition can offer insight as to whether your long-term side effects of cancer treatment are severe enough to qualify for SSDI benefits.
Critical Illness Cover And Breast Cancer
Some insurance policies and employment benefit schemes may cover you for critical illness. If you are unsure, check with your insurance provider or Human Resources department. Critical illness cover pays out a tax-free lump sum to help with the costs of a critical illness. Breast cancer is usually classed as a critical illness.
Do I Have To Tell A New Employer About My Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Employers are not permitted to ask questions about candidates health during the recruitment process. This includes asking if you have a disability .
Information regarding your health can be asked for by an employer, if it is relevant to the job or is to be used as part of equal opportunities monitoring.
If youre asked whether you have a health condition on an application form or in an interview, it might be a good idea to check whether the question is one that is allowed to be asked at that stage of recruitment.
Once youve been offered a job, an employer can then ask for information about your health. If youre asked directly its important you answer truthfully. Giving false or incomplete information could mislead your employer. However, if they decided to withdraw the job offer, this cannot be because of your breast cancer.
If you feel like you have been discriminated against at work because of your breast cancer diagnosis, you can contact;Acas or call their helpline on 0300 1230 1100. Acas provides free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law.
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Back Pay And Breast Cancer
If a breast cancer diagnosis has left you unable to work, your disability claim may seem challenging. To have a successful claim, hard medical evidence is needed. Provide a detailed list of your medical caregivers, including all doctors, clinics, nurse practitioners, hospitals, cancer centers, specialists, and labs. Your documentation must include the names of and the addresses and phone numbers for each provider. Include the service dates. Your breast cancer disability claim might include backpay, going back to the date when you filed for Social Security disability. That backpay will continue from that date until your disability claim was approved. Most claimants get backpay within 60 days of being approved for disability benefits.
Qualifying For Social Security Benefits With Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant cancer cells form in the tissues of the breast. It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer for women, with over 200,000 women being diagnosed per year.
Although you will be facing some tough challenges, if you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, there may be resources available for your family to make things a little easier.
A diagnosis of breast cancer will almost always require surgery and/or radiation. Most breast cancer patients will also require chemotherapy.
Without insurance, the costs of these treatments can be astronomical.
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Where To Find Information About Benefits And Financial Support
In the first instance, you may find it useful to speak to your employer or HR department, to find out what sick pay you are entitled to. Its also worth talking to your treatment team, as they may be able to refer you to a welfare adviser at your local hospital .
Citizens Advice can tell you what local government assistance and benefits may be available to you, your family and carers. They can also help you fill out benefit claim forms.
Macmillan Cancer Support offers free financial advice and support to people with breast cancer. They also produce a booklet, Help with the cost of cancer, which includes information on the benefits available for carers, help with housing costs, childrens needs and transport. For more information, speak to a Macmillan benefits adviser on 0808 808 00 00 or visit the website.
Early Access To Superannuation
Generally, you cannot access your superannuation benefits until you have reached preservation age and retired, or you have reached the age of 65. However, you can apply to access your superannuation under specific compassionate grounds, such as:
- Pay for medical or dental treatment for yourself or a dependent or pay for transport to the treatment
- Prevent your home from being sold by the lender that holds the mortgage
- Modify your home or vehicle to make it easier for you to manage everyday activities and be as independent as possible
- Pay for palliative care for yourself or a dependent with a terminal medical condition
- Pay for expenses associated with a dependents death, funeral or burial.
Contact the Federal Department of Human Services on 1300 131 060 for more information on accessing superannuation under compassionate grounds.
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How To Apply For Disability
The easiest way to start is to apply for disability online from the comfort of your own home.
If youd prefer, you can also apply in person with the help of a Social Security representative at your closest Social Security office. To make an appointment to apply in person, simply call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213.
You should hear back from the SSA regarding your claim within five months, but anyone with IBC or metastatic breast cancer should be approved within a couple of weeks.
Hopefully, you found this information helpful.; If you have any questions, please leave comments or send me an email and I will try to get your questions answers about getting social security disability benefits for breast cancer.
Rachel is an Austin blogger, mom, wife, young breast cancer survivor writing about health, saving money, and living a happy life in Austin, Texas.
Rachel has written for HuffPost and Hometalk and has been featured on KXAN, Studio 512, Fox 7 Austin, and CBS Austin.