July is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month

July has been declared bladder cancer awareness month in Florida. Did you know that Florida has the third-highest incidence of bladder cancer in the US? An estimated 74,690 adults will be diagnosed with bladder cancer in the United States. And approximately 15,580 individuals will pass away from this disease. For men, bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer and the eighth most common cause of cancer death.

What is bladder cancer?

Bladder cancer, also known as bladder carcinoma, is a disease characterized by a malignant tumor growth on bladder tissue. Transitional cell carcinoma is the most common type of bladder cancer. This type of cancer is described based upon how far they have invaded the bladder wall, either invasive or non-invasive. Invasive cancers are more likely to spread and thus are harder to treat. The majority of bladder cancers are diagnosed in the early stages. This is because the signs and symptoms include blood in urine, frequent urination, painful urination, pelvic pain and back pain. However, if the cancer is found in the later stages you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

Does bladder cancer qualify as a compassionate allowance?

Many people don’t realize that having issues with your bladder could mean you are eligible for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits. If you are diagnosed with bladder cancer and applying for SSD benefits, your claim may be expedited. Most individuals must unfortunately wait one to two years when they apply for disability benefits before hearing a final resolution on their case. Certain conditions or diseases may expedite your case through the process. Bladder cancer happens to be one of those diseases.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a list of diseases called compassionate allowances that are so serious and obviously meet disability standards that they are able to be approved fairly quickly. This list targets the most obviously disabled individuals for approval based on objective medical information. Just being diagnosed with a condition on the compassionate allowance list is not enough to gain approval. You still need to have the requisite medical evidence to support the severity of your condition. This seems pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised by the number of individuals who are diagnosed with a life-threatening condition and fail to seek the treatment that will help them prolong their lives.

For a bladder cancer diagnosis to qualify as a compassionate allowance cancer must be inoperable, unresectable, or with metastases. Accepting objective medical testing would be through physical exam and history, CT scan, urinalysis, intravenous pyelogram, cystoscopy, biopsy, and/or urine cytology. An MRI or chest x-ray may also be used to determine if cancer has spread. Treatment options often include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and biologic therapy.

Basically, all these means is if you are diagnosed with bladder cancer and follow your medical provider’s recommended testing and treatment you will most likely have the required medical evidence to show you meet Social Security’s compassionate allowance listing.

If your condition does not meet a compassionate allowance you may still be found disabled by one of SSA’s listings. These listings, while not necessarily qualifying your case to be expedited, certainly make it easier for SSA to approve your disability claim. The Social Security Administration has come up with a list of impairments for each major body system that is considered severe enough to prevent an individual from working full-time. Most of the listed impairments are permanent or expected to result in death. As with the compassionate allowance conditions, any listing you may meet or equal must be supported by substantial medical treatment (are we seeing a theme that medical records are important?). Bladder cancer has its own listing numbered 13.22. You may be found disabled due to a listing if your bladder cancer has infiltration beyond the bladder wall; or recurrent after total cystectomy; or inoperable or unresectable; or with metastases to or beyond the regional lymph nodes.

If for some reason you do not meet the listing for bladder cancer that does not mean you aren’t disabled. It simply means you don’t meet the very strict criteria under either a compassionate allowance or a listing. Social Security would then move on to determine the extent of your symptoms and limitations to determine how it affects your ability to work.

Significant accommodations rule out any type of work.

When assessing an individual’s capacity to work, SSA considers the individual’s ability to do sustained work-related physical and mental activities in a work setting on a regular and continuing basis –meaning 8 hours a day for 5 days a week. If you require a significant amount of breaks during a regular working period that may make you unemployable.

One of the main symptoms of bladder cancer is frequent urination. There is an exact number of restroom breaks that make you unemployable. Generally, if you are using the bathroom every hour you will be considered to be “off task” at least 20% of the day. If you are found to be off-task 20% of the day that will typically rule out any type of jobs that you could perform. Or if you require frequent absences from work that may also rule out any types of work you could do. It’s important to seek help from an experienced disability attorney at this point to help you show that while you may have some work capabilities, you are unable to work on a regular and continuing basis to maintain employment.

How to Obtain Benefits if You Have Bladder Cancer

Much of the frustration involved in applying for Social Security disability benefits can be avoided by seeking a disability attorney to look over your case and provide knowledgeable legal advice. At the LaBovick Law Group we provide free evaluations at any stage in the process. Within minutes we can tell if your case qualifies as a compassionate allowance and needs to be expedited, or if it will need to run through the whole disability process. We make sure all of our cases that qualify as a compassionate allowance are flagged by SSA and fast-tracked in the program. 

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