One of the many lifestyle changes cancer survivors might face is what to do if you can no longer work. After making a solid career for myself as a researcher at ESPN, the long term side effects of chemotherapy and radiation left me unable to complete my assignments on a consistent basis.
In my case, being a researcher was one of the few career opportunities that were perfect for my skills. Instead of climbing a career ladder that would eventually see me being able to advance and help my then wife prepare a stable financial future, I now was unable to work.
Before I continue, I don’t mean to compare any of these issues to what you face during treatment. All of these situations are part of everyday life that survivors have to account for. While not having to sit through chemo and radiation any longer is a joy in itself, that doesn’t mean that because you know what it’s like to suffer through treatment that it diminishes the stress you face trying to make ends meet getting back to regular life.
I was now faced with having to survive on what long-term disability would pay me. At first I was receiving long term pay from The Hartford which I paid into during my 10 years at ESPN. As I stated in my previous blog, they would pay me 60 percent of my salary through 2037. However, that does not ever increase. Those on long-term disability from your employer, must apply for long term disability with social security after a year.
Applying for disability benefits with social security is a nightmare. Since there are so many that take advantage of the system, they are very tough on approving new applicants. A lawyer is also needed for you to make your case, which can be very expensive. The Hartford provided me with a lawyer, since it was also in their best interest that I be approved by social security.
Since the process is very detailed and thorough, the lawyers at the Hartford explained that just about everyone gets denied in their first application. So did I. In my second application I had to appear before a judge who I explained my health conditions to. If it’s not humiliating enough to be unable to control your ability to poop, explaining it to a judge in front of others was worse. I wanted to bury myself in floor. Making my case included admitting to having to wear a diaper at 35 and that some days going to the bathroom as many as 30-40 times before noon. Unlike the first application, I was approved the second time.
The Hartford paid me every two weeks, which makes it much easier to separate your bills and prepare for payments. However, social security pays out once a month (second Wednesday of every month which can be a eight day difference in some months) . The other major difference was that they only awarded me 2/3 of what The Hartford was paying me, which reduced my income even more. The Hartford, however, made up the difference, so I still was making the same amount I made before applying for social security disability. Social security (unlike long-term disability) also tries to account for increases in living expenses. In most cases this helps very little.
The long-term side effects that destroy your body can leave survivors without much hope. After beating cancer. some doctors, lawyers or other professionals who spent as many as 8-10 years honing their skills can find themselves unable to work and with mountains of student loans, Where is the help for them?
NEXT BLOG DATE: June 27, 2019