Facts about Metastasis 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) Metastasis, or metastasis disease, is when a disease located in one part of the body spreads to another part of the body, usually a non-adjacent organ. This is most common with cancer, though researchers are currently studying to determine whether other diseases may have this capacity.
2) Metastasis happens when malignant cells break off from the original tumor and enter the lymphatic system and/or bloodstream. This allows for the cancerous cells to end up in the tissues in another part of the body entirely, which is how cancer spreads. This is usually during the late stages of cancer.
3) When a cancerous tumor moves from one part of the body to another, for example, from the colon to the liver, it is called a metastasis tumor, or a secondary tumor. This means that although there is cancer in the secondary part of the body, it did not originate there, and is not that type of cancer.
4) Metastasis is most commonly found in the bones, lungs, brain and liver.
5) It is very common for certain types of cancers to metastasize to certain parts of the body. For example, breast cancer commonly spreads to the bones and it is common for colon cancer to move to the liver, while stomach cancer most often spread to the ovaries.
6) While there are many symptoms of metastasis they can vary greatly and depend upon the location. For example, if metastasis is in the lungs the symptoms may be shortness of breath and cough, while the symptoms for metastasis in the bones may be fracture or bone pain.
7) Oftentimes the metastasis will be found before the primary tumor location. In this case a tissue sample can determine which type of cell has been found, although sometimes the primary location cannot be determined.
8) Metastasis can be treated with one or more of the following treatments: chemotherapy, radiation therapy, radiosurgery, surgery, hormone therapy or biological therapy. Treatment chosen depends on many factors. Unfortunately, metastasis is rarely curable.
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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