Are you unable to work because of a disability? Get the answers you need on Social Security Disability to protect your rights
Keefe Disability Law has compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions in response to the overwhelming number of people who need help with the Social Security Disability process in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. If you are disabled and need help with disability benefits, read on to learn how to protect your legal rights.
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I recently found out I have breast cancer. It looks like my treatment will take a lot of time over the next three months. Is it possible to keep working while undergoing treatment for breast cancer?
It is amazing how many appointments can be needed to treat cancer. While you need your paycheck and your insurance, you may wonder how you can undergo chemotherapy and radiation and still keep your job. You may also be concerned that the side effects of chemotherapy will prevent you from working. You might be surprised to learn that many women do continue to work even while undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
You've probably seen movies in which the chemotherapy made the patient more ill than the cancer did. The side effects that you will experience will depend on the types of medications you are given, their dosages, and the length of treatment. The most common side effects of chemotherapy include:
- Lack of appetite
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- Increased risk of infection
- Bruising or bleeding
- Changes in menstrual cycles
Ask your doctor about the side effects associated with your specific chemotherapy medications and how they can best be managed. Schedule accordingly. For instance, if you will be undergoing weekly chemotherapy that will leave you tired and nauseated for about 24 hours after treatment, you might want to consider scheduling your treatments for Friday nights. Then you would have the weekend to rest.
If you have severe side effects from chemotherapy, you will need to temporarily adjust your schedule. You may even have to take time off from work. This is a big deal, especially if you are dependent on your job for health care benefits and to make ends meet.
Before talking to your supervisor, make sure you know your employer's sick leave policy. Employers are required by federal law to provide “reasonable accommodations” for anyone with a disability. When cancer affects your ability to participate in life activities, it qualifies as a disability. Reasonable accommodation for cancer can include:
- Providing an altered work schedule or flextime
- Granting time off for doctor visits, treatment, and recovery from treatment
- Allowing short breaks during the workday so you can rest
- Temporarily reassigning some of your tasks to another employee
- Allowing job sharing
- Making changes to the workplace environment (such as turning up the heat or offering a padded chair) to increase comfort
- Allowing an employee to work from home
- Allowing a leave of absence
When you tell your boss about your diagnosis, be clear that you want to keep working. Make a list of reasonable accommodations that will help you do your job while you recover. The request cannot cause your employer “undue hardship”; however, most accommodations cost less than $500.
If the effects of the cancer or its treatment become severe, you may need to take time off. People who receive a cancer diagnosis are protected under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993. The FMLA allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from work for medical reasons. The 12 weeks do not have to be continuous.
To qualify for FMLA, you must meet the following conditions:
- You must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months before the FMLA request.
- You must have worked more than 1,250 hours in that calendar year.
- Your employer must have at least 50 employees.
If you have to take leave, short-term disability insurance can help you make ends meet. If your cancer keeps you out of work for a year or longer, you may want to look into Social Security disability insurance (SSDI). For more information about applying for SSDI for breast cancer, request a free copy of Boston Social Security attorney John Keefe’s book titled Unlocking the Mystery – The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process, or contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.
I am working with rheumatoid arthritis. How can I work longer and stay off disability?
Yes! There is. Exercise. While there is no known cure for arthritis, many patients have found that physical activity is helpful in managing their disease.
Prevent Arthritis From Getting Worse
Most arthritis sufferers fear exercise because they feel that it will damage their joints and cause more pain. Actually, lack of exercise can make RA worse and even affect your cardiac health. Exercise can help to maintain mobility and ward off cardiovascular disease. It has even been linked to prevention of RA.
How much and what type of physical activity you do should be decided between you and your doctor or a physical therapist. However, the Arthritis Foundation recommends three general types, You can visit their website for more information:
- Flexibility (stretching, range-of-motion) exercises
- Strengthening (Resistance) exercises
- Cardiovascular (aerobic) exercises
So get out and get moving! Medical science and common sense are both behind you. You really can manage your condition by moving more.
Contact Keefe Disability Law If You Have Questions
Keefe Disability Law wants you to keep working at your Massachusetts job just as long as you can. If your condition has made it more and more difficult for you to work, contact us for information on filing for Social Security disability benefits. You can call us toll free at 888-904-6847 or fill in the form on this page for a free case review.
My family member knows everything that I go through. Can he testify during my hearing?
We always encourage claimants to bring family members or friends to the hearing for support. That family member can sit down with the claimant and the attorney before the hearing to discuss the case and help the claimant feel comfortable leading up to the hearing.
Believe it or not, there are only rare instances when a judge feels it is necessary to hear from someone other than the claimant. During the hearing, the ALJ wants to get to know the claimant and understand the difficulties she is facing because of her impairments. Often, testimony from an additional person only clouds the issues and takes attention away from the claimant's personal experiences. Also, it is inevitable that the family member's testimony will differ, at least slightly, from the claimant's testimony and an ALJ is permitted to use those inconsistencies to evaluate the claimant's credibility. That's why it is almost always best to focus the testimony on the claimant and bring family members or friends for support before and after the hearing.