Facts about Prostate Cancer 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. In the United States alone, it is estimated that one out of every six men may develop prostate cancer in their lifetime. While some cases of prostate cancer may not be severe or destructive, other cases may be very aggressive and life-threatening.
2. The earlier prostate cancer is detected, the better the chances are of treating it and keeping it confined to the prostate gland. Unfortunately, many cases are not diagnosed until the cancer has spread outside the prostate gland and into other areas of the body.
3. It is important that high risk men, and all men over the age of 50, get routine prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests, or a digital rectal exams (DRE), to keep a close eye on their prostate health. 4.
In many cases of prostate cancer there are not noticeable symptoms until the cancer has spread outside the prostate gland and is in an advanced form of the disease. Initial symptoms may include urinary problems, such as starting and stopping while urinating, having to push to get a urinary stream, or trouble urinating in general. In some cases there will also be blood in the semen or urine.
5. Advanced stages of prostate cancer that have spread to the bones, lymph nodes or pelvic area may shows symptoms such as bone pain, leg swelling, pelvic discomfort, or bone fractures.
6. Risk factors for prostate cancer include being obese, having high testosterone levels, being over the age of 50, eating a high-fat diet, and being an African-American man. You may also be at a higher risk if prostate cancer is found in your immediate family.
7. There are four stages to prostate cancer. Stage one is when the cancerous tumor cannot be felt by your doctor. Stage two can be felt by your doctor, but is still only located in the prostate gland. Stage three has moved beyond the prostate to nearby areas, and stage four prostate cancer has moved to the lungs, bones, lymph nodes or other areas in the body.
8. Since the risk for prostate cancer is so high, men should get tested regularly, eat a low-fat, healthy diet, and get plenty of exercise to help stabilize their weight and keep testosterone levels healthy.
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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