Is Cancer a Long-Term Disability?

Is Cancer a Long-Term Disability Featured Image

Cancer is one of the most devastating diagnoses that you can possibly receive. Often both cancer and the subsequent treatment can make working impossible. 

Yet bills still have to get paid, and that means you may need to make a long-term disability claim and apply either for private insurance benefits or for public disability payments. 

Many Canadians receive LTD insurance through their employers, and will be dealing with that company to try to get their needs met as they navigate a dizzying array of doctors and treatments. 

What is a Long-term Disability in Canada?

A long-term disability is any illness or injury that prevents you from performing work for at least 17 weeks. For the first 24 weeks this will be defined as an inability to work your own occupation: that is, the job you held prior to your cancer diagnosis. After 24 months you’ll need to prove that you can’t work any occupation in order to continue receiving benefits from most insurers.

For some patients, two years will be more than enough to cover a treatment and remission period. Others may need more time. 

Most people who apply for LTD benefits for cancer have at least Stage 2 cancer. Stage 1 cancer can usually be removed quickly through surgical means. 

Cancer Symptoms that Interfere with Work

Cancer comes with a plethora of symptoms that can make work insurmountable. These include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Mobility issues
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Infections
  • Bleeding problems
  • Visual impairment
  • Hearing impairment
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Seizures
  • Depression and anxiety

In addition, chemotherapy can come with a host of side-effects that can make work impossible:

  • Incontinence
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Difficulty with concentration and focus

While these symptoms can differ in presentation and severity, some patients simply have no choice but to claim disability benefits. 

Public Benefits Available to Cancer Patients

Your private insurance company might not be as quick to pay as you might want, and you may even struggle to get them to pay you at all (see below).

In the meantime, there are some public programs you can take advantage of. 

For example, you can use Employment Insurance sick benefits for up to 15 weeks if you are unable to work as a result of your illness. 

You can also apply for the Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit if you have made sufficient contributions to the plan and can show that your cancer prevents you from doing “substantially gainful work,” which is defined as any work which pays at least $17,000 per year. These benefits will pay between $510.85 and $1,414 per month until you can work again or until you reach the age of 65, when regular CPP benefits kick in.

Cancer may also allow you to take advantage of AISH, the provincial disability benefit program. This is a means-tested program and it will require you to apply for all other benefits that might apply to you before payments will be made. 

When do You Need an LTD Lawyer to Handle Your Claim?

You did everything you were supposed to do. You bought a disability policy that should cover you. Yet as soon as you make your claim the insurance company turns on you. They claim pre-existing conditions. They claim you can work, even when you find work to be impossible. You think a diagnosis of cancer should be enough: in truth it rarely is.

Sometimes insurers deny benefits outright. Sometimes they suddenly cut off benefits, abruptly and without warning, even while you’re still undergoing chemotherapy treatments. 

You can alleviate some of these problems yourself by providing documentation of your medical tests and treatments. You’ll also need to document the symptoms that are having a negative impact on your life. 

If you do everything right and get denied anyway, reaching out to a LTD lawyer is your best call. Don’t go through the appeal process without one, as you are unlikely to receive benefits if you do.

Get Help with Your Cancer Claim Today.

Sometimes getting help from a long-term disability lawyer is the only way to make insurance companies do the right thing. 

Most members of our Red Deer legal team have over 20 years of experience handling disability claims just like yours. This experience increases your chances of getting the benefits you need to pay your bills while you battle this terrible disease.

We’re responsive and caring lawyers with a long track record of winning cases. We’re known for being some of Alberta’s toughest negotiators and savviest litigators. 

Don’t struggle through your disability claim on your own. We do the heavy lifting so you can focus on getting well. Call (403) 269-7777 to schedule a case evaluation today.

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