Can you get Disability for Liver Cancer?
Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Liver Cancer?
Author: Attorney Lonnie Roach
The American Cancer Society estimates about 42,230 cases of liver cancer will be diagnosed in 2021 and 30,230 people will die due to these cancers. The liver is the second largest organ in the body and has over 500 functions. One of its main functions is to filter blood circulating through the body, converting nutrients and drugs into forms that are easier for the body to use. Another important function is to remove toxins and chemical waste products from the blood. Because all the blood in the body must pass through the liver, the liver is vulnerable to cancer cells passing through the bloodstream. Liver cancer can be primary (beginning in the liver itself), or secondary (starting in another part of the body and then spreading). Most liver cancers are secondary; primary liver cancer accounts for only two percent of cases in the United States. If you are suffering from the effects of Liver Cancer you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.
The liver is made of several different types of cells.
Liver cancer occurs when liver cells develop mutations in their DNA. The cells grow out of control and form tumors. While some of these tumors are noncancerous or benign, others are cancerous and can spread. Noncancerous tumors are not treated as liver cancer though they may need to be removed surgically if they cause problems. Cancerous tumors include hepatocellular carcinomas, the most common type, and hepatoblastomas, the rarest type, and cholangiocarcinomas (cancer of the bile duct).
There are usually no signs of liver cancer in its early stages. When symptoms do appear, they include:
- Upper abdominal pain;
- Abdominal swelling;
- Loss of appetite;
- Weight loss;
- Nausea and vomiting;
- Weakness and fatigue
- Swollen legs
- Itching all over body; and
- Mental confusion.
Approximately 50 percent of people who suffer with primary liver cancer have cirrhosis, scarring of the liver caused by alcohol abuse.
Primary liver cancer occurs when the liver is damaged at birth or by disease or exposed to some toxin.
Other risk factors include:
- Serious infection, such as hepatitis B or C;
- Alcohol abuse;
- Hereditary disease such as hemochromatosis (a disease resulting from an excess of iron in the liver;
- Exposure to chemicals like vinyl chloride;
- History of diabetes;
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease;
- Exposure to aflatoxins (poisons made by a type of plant mold that contaminates wheat, peanuts, rice and corn); and
- Anabolic steroid use – male hormones used by athletes to increase muscle mass.
Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from Liver Cancer. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
A doctor will conduct a number of different tests to diagnose liver disease and liver cancer:
1) blood tests to detect any abnormalities, 2) imaging such as ultrasound, CT scans and MRIs, and 3) tissue samples from the liver. If liver cancer is discovered, treatment will depend on the stage of cancer and options available at that point. Any liver cancer is difficult to treat because primary liver cancer is rarely discovered early when it’s easiest to treat and secondary liver cancer has already spread. The aim of most treatments is to make the patient feel better and to extend their life.
The most common treatments are:
- Surgery to remove a tumor;
- Liver transplants;
- Targeted drug therapy;
- Localized treatments such as freezing cancer cells; and
Qualifying for Disability for Liver Cancer
Liver cancer is a devastating disease and is listed under Section 13.19 of Social Security’s Blue Book.
Because of its critical symptoms and poor prognosis, individuals applying for Social Security Disability Income under this listing may not have to go through the standard process. Liver cancer is on the Social Security Administration’s Compassionate Allowance list and TERI (Terminal Illness) list. The Compassionate Allowance program allows for expedited approval of a claim and provides benefits quickly to applicants with medical conditions that are so serious they would undoubtedly qualify for disability under one of Social Security’s impairment listings. This program also allows Social Security to identify applicants who are the most disabled and grant them benefits quickly. Instead of waiting several months, or even a year, the average processing time for these claims is 19 days.
To qualify for disability benefits under this listing, Social Security requires a complete record of diagnosis and symptoms supported by medical evidence.
Social Security will want to see proof of 1) the origin of the cancer; 2) extent of involvement; 3) records of treatments and responses to treatments; and 4) any effects of post-therapy residuals.
You will need to provide:
- Medical records from doctors, hepatologists, and oncologists confirming the presence of liver cancer;
- Results from blood tests;
- An MRI or CT scan showing abnormalities consistent with liver cancer; and
- Pathology results from a liver biopsy.
If you can provide the above evidence, it’s probable you will be approved for disability benefits.
However, some applicants are denied because there is some uncertainty about the diagnosis or treatment has been successful. A denial may also result from a poorly prepared application or a lack of knowledge on the part of the adjudicator reviewing the claim.
If your claim is denied, it’s still possible to be approved for a Medical Vocational Allowance.
Social Security will conduct a Residual Functional Capacity assessment to evaluate your limitations and consider your age and education. In addition to your medical file, Social Security will give weight to the opinions of your treating doctors if they are backed up by medical evidence and not inconsistent with other medical evidence. Be sure to include opinions from your doctors about work-related limitations (sitting, standing, lifting, requiring rest breaks) and side effects of treatments.
It is vital that applicants with liver cancer be approved for benefits quickly.
An attorney can interact with your doctors to gather medical records and persuasive evidence and hasten the claims process. Attorneys are only entitled to 25% of your past-due benefits. Also known as back pay, this is money owed to you by the Social Security Administration for the months you were eligible for benefits before your claim was approved. If your claim is approved quickly, attorney’s fees would be minimal.
If you have been diagnosed with liver cancer and you are no longer able to work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Income.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.
The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.
- The Duration of Work test. Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
- The Current Work Test. Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.
The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.
- Are you working? Your disability must be “total”.
- Is your medical condition severe? Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
- Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments? The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
- Can you do the work you did before? SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
- Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.
More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you are not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
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Author: Attorney Lonnie Roach has been practicing law for over 29 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Roach obtained board certifications from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lonnie is admitted to practice in the United States District Court - all Texas Districts and the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Highly experienced in Long Term Disability denials and appeals governed by the “ERISA” Mr. Roach is a member of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, Austin Bar Association, and is a past the director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association (Director 1999-2005) Mr. Roach and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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