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Can you get Disability for Liver Cancer?

Appealing for benefits is best done under the guidance of an experienced disability lawyer.

Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Liver Cancer?

Author: Attorney Lonnie Roach
Updated: 1/15/2024

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.

Liver Cancer Disability

Can you get Disability for Liver Cancer? Anyone who has been diagnosed with liver disease is likely to be eligible for Social Security Disability and will probably qualify for the expedited process. For help call 512-454-4000

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
  •    Jaundice;
  •   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.

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 are 55 or older or have another medical condition you may get approval.

Social Security follows a set of rules to determine when the agency expects an applicant to learn a new job.

Applicants who are 55 or older often fall under a grid rule, which means they are not expected to learn a new job. For example, a 55-year-old applicant with no transferable skills might be found disabled. If you can’t go back to your old job, and you don’t have the skills to learn a new one, Social Security will likely grant you disability benefits.

You may also be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if you have another medical condition; for example, diabetes or high blood pressure.

One disorder by itself may not match the requirements of an impairment as stated in Social Security’s Blue Book, but if you have more than one medical condition, Social Security must consider how those health issues combined limit your ability to hold a job and perform necessary daily tasks.

Social Security also has basic financial requirements.

Before you are eligible for Social Security disability benefits, you must satisfy some basic financial requirements.

You must: 1) have a disability that has lasted or is expected to last 12 months; and 2) you must have worked in a job where you paid Social Security taxes long enough and recently enough; and 3) you must not earn more than Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), which is $1,550 per month in 2024 for nonblind applicants and $2,590 per month for blind applicants.

What if I don’t qualify for SSDI?

If you haven’t worked long enough to earn enough work credits, or if you earn too much income, you may be eligible for disability benefits through another Social Security program, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or from a long-term disability insurance plan through your employer or a privately purchased policy.

SSI is a program that pays monthly benefits to people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or age 65 or older. SSI is based on income instead of work credits, and is financed by general funds of the U.S. Treasury.

I have long-term disability insurance – should I file a claim?

Yes, you should file a claim as soon as you become disabled.

Long-term disability insurance (LTD) is coverage that protects your income if you are unable to work due to illness or injury and is purchased as part of a group employment plan or privately through an insurance company. Policies pay between 50-60% of your salary and benefits continue until you return to work or for the number of years stated in the policy. However, LTD coverage is good only as long as you are employed, so do not quit your job before you file a claim, and be sure to check your policy’s definition of “disabled” as each policy will state the definition of “disabled” which is in use. Additionally, be aware that long-term disability insurance companies can require a claimant to also apply for SSDI.

How do I file for Social Security Disability benefits?

You can apply for Social Security Disability benefits online, over the phone, or in person at your local Social Security Administration office.

If your initial application is denied, don’t be discouraged. Approximately 65% of initial applications are denied, but you will have the opportunity to appeal.

There are four steps to the Social Security appeal process:

  1.    File a Request for Reconsideration with the Social Security Administration to completely review the case.
  2.    If you don’t agree with SSA’s response to your Request for Reconsideration, you can request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). ALJs are attorneys who work for the Social Security Administration; they review SSDI cases and either uphold or overturn decisions to deny SSDI benefits. If you are not represented by an attorney at this point, now is the time to obtain legal counsel. This is a critical point in the process and will raise your chance for success.
  3.    If an ALJ does not grant your claim, you can request that the Appeals Council review your case.
  4.    Federal Court review. The final step in the appeal process is filing suit in U.S. District Court.

Do I need a disability attorney for SSDI?

Qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits is problematic because the requirements of Social Security’s impairment listing are very difficult to decipher.

Your chances for approval are increased significantly if you have an experienced disability attorney who can gather your necessary medical evidence and even write a brief explaining why you qualify. At each potential stage of the process, from the initial application stage, the reconsideration stage and the ALJ hearing stage, an attorney can assist you in completing the detailed forms and questionnaires required by Social Security, collecting and submitting relevant medical evidence, and preparing questionnaires for your doctors. At the ALJ hearing phase an attorney will not only continue to assure that the evidence is complete, but prepare you for questioning by the ALJ, prepare an argument on your behalf and question any doctors or vocational experts selected by the ALJ to testify at the hearing. At the Appeals Council and federal court level, a lawyer can present legal arguments to show your case was wrongfully denied. Fees charged by disability attorneys are regulated by federal law and are usually 25% of disability backpay you are owed. There are no out-of-pocket costs, and if you don’t win your case, you won’t be charged anything.

Do I need a disability attorney for a long-term disability insurance claim?

Whether you have a long-term disability insurance policy purchased through a private insurance broker or a group policy purchased with your employer, filing a claim for long-term insurance is a complex process.

The wording of LTD policies can be confusing and the laws and regulations which affect the two types of LTD insurance differ in their procedures for filing claims and appeals. An experienced LTD attorney with thorough knowledge of ERISA laws and regulations will avoid mistakes and increase your chance of success. An attorney will act on your behalf, completing your application and filing your claim in a timely manner. They can also negotiate a settlement or file an appeal for you. If it becomes necessary to file suit, an LTD attorney can prepare your case against an insurer. Most LTD attorneys handle cases on a contingency basis and charge approximately 25%-40% of a claimant’s past due benefits. You do not pay an attorney’s fee unless the attorney wins your case.

If you are experiencing the effects of liver cancer and it has prevented you from working, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. Start your application process today.

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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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Attorney Lonnie RoachAuthor: 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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