Facts about Basal Cell Carcinoma and Filing for Disability
These selected pages answer some of the most basic, but also some of the most important, questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim for disability benefits.
Facts about the condition
1. Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer, most common outside of melanoma skin cancers. It is easily treated and is not likely to spread, although it is likely to reoccur elsewhere on the skin within five years.
2. Basal cell carcinomas result from long-term ultraviolet radiation exposure, which is part of sunlight. Sunblock does not prevent basal cell carcinomas from forming; staying out of the sun is the only sure prevention method.
3. Most basal cell carcinomas occur on the head, neck back and chest. All skin cancers are characterized by sores that do not heal, but bleed and scab over for a period of time before opening again.
4. Basal cell carcinoma in particular on the face, ears and neck usually looks like a white or waxy bump that may bleed, crust over, or has a depression in the center.
5. On the chest and back basal cell carcinoma is usually a flat and scaly patch of skin that can be either flesh colored or brown. It can grow up to 6 inches across.
6. Morpheaform basal cell carcinoma is a rare but more serious type, that generally looks like a white waxy scar.
7. Aside from exposure to sun, there are other factors that increase the risk of developing basal cell carcinoma. Medical treatment such as immunosuppressant drugs for a transplant, or radiation treatments for psoriasis, acne and ringworm combined with other factors such as skin pigmentation increase the risk. Arsenic consumption also increases this risk.
8. Generally, men over the age of 50, with fair skin and a family history of skin cancer, especially those who spend a lot of time in the sun throughout their lives, are the most likely to develop basal cell carcinoma.
9. When treated in a timely manner basal cell carcinomas rarely cause problems. When left untreated, especially if the carcinoma is morpheaform, it can destroy muscles, nerves and even bone, so early treatment is important.
Qualifying for disability benefits with this condition
Whether or not you qualify for disability and, as a result, are approved for disability benefits will depend entirely on the information obtained from your medical records.
This includes whatever statements and treatment notes that may have been obtained from your treating physician (a doctor who has a history of treating your condition and is, therefore, qualified to comment as to your condition and prognosis). It also includes discharge summaries from hospital stays, reports of imaging studies (such as xrays, MRIs, and CT scans) and lab panels (i.e. bloodwork) as well as reports from physical therapy.
In many disability claims, it may also include the results of a report issued by an independent physician who examines you at the request of the Social Security Administration.
Qualifying for SSD or SSI benefits will also depend on the information obtained from your vocational, or work, history if you are an adult, or academic records if you are a minor-age child. In the case of adults, your work history information will allow a disability examiner (examiners make decisions at the initial claim and reconsideration appeal levels, but not at the hearing level where a judges decides the outcome of the case) to A) classify your past work, B) determine the physical and mental demands of your past work, C) decide if you can go back to a past job, and D) whether or not you have the ability to switch to some type of other work.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the social security administration does not award benefits based on simply having a condition, but, instead, will base an approval or denial on the extent to which a condition causes functional limitations. Functional limitations can be great enough to make work activity not possible (or, for a child, make it impossible to engage in age-appropriate activities).
Why are so many disability cases lost at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels?
There are several reasons but here are just two:
1) Social Security makes no attempt to obtain a statement from a claimant's treating physician. By contrast, at the hearing level, a claimant's disability attorney or disability representative will generally obtain and present this type of statement to a judge.
Note: it is not enough for a doctor to simply state that their patient is disabled. To satisy Social Security's requirements, the physician must list in what ways and to what extent the individual is functionally limited. For this reason, many representatives and attorneys request that the physician fill out and sign a specialized medical source statement that captures the correct information. Solid Supporting statements from physicians easily make the difference between winning or losing a disability case at the hearing level.
2) Prior to the hearing level, a claimant will not have the opportunity to explain how their condition limits them, nor will their attorney or representative have the opportunity to make a presentation based on the evidence of the case. This is because at the initial levels of the disability system, a disability examiner decides the case without meeting the claimant. The examiner may contact the claimant to gather information on activities of daily living and with regard to medical treatment or past jobs, but usually nothing more. At the hearing level, however, presenting an argument for approval based on medical evidence that has been obtained and submitted is exactly what happens.
About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.
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