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Getting Long-Term Disability (LTD) Benefits for Leukemia

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Coping with a serious type of cancer like leukemia is scary and overwhelming, without the added stress of fighting the insurance company for long-term disability (LTD) benefits to which you are entitled.  Insurance companies can be challenging to work with, as they often prioritize their own financial interests and wrongfully deny claims.

However, the team of attorneys and professionals at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick have the knowledge and experience you need.  We can help to get you the long-term disability benefits you deserve by fighting the insurance company on your behalf so you can focus on what is most important: your health.  To see if we can assist, call us at 401-331-6300 for a free case evaluation.

What is Leukemia?

Leukemia is a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues, including bone marrow and the lymphatic system, that hinders the body’s ability to fight infections.  Leukemia typically involves white blood cells, also called leukocytes or leucocytes, which are the cells of the immune system that are involved in protecting the body against both infectious diseases and foreign invaders.

Long-Term Disability (LTD) 101

White blood cells are produced and derived from cells in the bone marrow known as hematopoietic stem cells.  In a healthy person, white blood cells are produced and distributed throughout the body in an organized manner as they are needed; however, for a person with leukemia, the bone marrow produces too many white blood cells that they overcrowd the red blood cells and platelets and, as a result, are unable to properly defend the body.

Scientists do not fully understand the exact causes of the condition, but most often attribute the development of this cancer to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Types of Leukemia

There are several different kinds of leukemia which are divided based mainly on whether the condition is acute (i.e. fast-growing) or chronic (i.e. slower growing), and whether it starts in myeloid cells or lymphoid cells.  Different types of leukemia have different treatment options and outlooks.  The major types of leukemia are:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): This is the most common type of leukemia in young children but can also occur in adults.
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML): AML is a common type of leukemia that occurs in both children and adults.  It is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults.
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL): With CLL, the most common chronic adult leukemia, you may feel well for years without needing treatment.
  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML): This type of leukemia mainly affects adults.  A person with CML may have few or no symptoms for months or years before entering a phase in which the leukemia cells grow more quickly.
  • Other types of leukemia: Other, rarer types of this condition exist, including hairy cell leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes, and myeloproliferative disorders.

Certain types of leukemia occur more often in adults, whereas others are more likely to appear in children.  Leukemia is the most common cancer in children and teens, accounting for almost 1 out of 3 cancer diagnoses.  Most childhood leukemias are acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), and most of the remaining cases are acute myeloid leukemia (AML).  Chronic leukemias are rarer in children than in adults.


The symptoms of this type of cancer can vary, depending on the type of leukemia you have.  However, some common signs and symptoms that typically appear with all types of the condition may include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Persistent fatigue or weakness
  • Frequent or severe infections
  • Unexplained or undesired weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes, and enlarged liver or spleen
  • Easy bleeding and bruising
  • Recurrent nosebleeds
  • Excessive sweating, particularly at night
  • Bone pain or tenderness
  • Petechiae (i.e. tiny red spots) on the skin

If you have any persistent signs or symptoms that worry you, you should make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to determine their cause.  As leukemia symptoms are often vague and non-specific, you may overlook early leukemia symptoms because they may resemble symptoms of the flu and other common illnesses.  Rarely, leukemia may be discovered during blood tests for an unrelated condition.

In order to determine if you have leukemia, your doctor may require that you undergo the following:

  • Physical exam: Your doctor will look for physical signs of leukemia, such as pale skin from anemia, swelling of your lymph nodes, and enlargement of your liver and spleen.
  • Blood tests: By looking at a sample of your blood, your doctor can determine if you have abnormal levels of red or white blood cells or platelets — which may suggest leukemia.
  • Bone marrow test: Your doctor may recommend a procedure to remove a sample of bone marrow from your hipbone using a long, thin needle.  The sample is sent to a laboratory to look for leukemia cells.  Specialized tests of your leukemia cells may reveal certain characteristics that are used to determine your treatment options.


Your doctor will determine the best course of treatment for your leukemia based on several important factors, including: what kind of leukemia you have; your age and overall physical health; and if the condition has spread to other areas of the body, such as the central nervous system.  For slower-growing leukemias, treatment may include monitoring, while treatment for more aggressive leukemias can include chemotherapy, radiation, and/or stem-cell transplant.

How ERISA Impacts Long-Term Disability Claims

Common treatments used to fight leukemia include:

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the major form of treatment for leukemia. This drug treatment uses chemicals to kill cancer cells.
  • Biological therapy: Biological therapy works by using treatments that help your immune system recognize and attack cancer cells.
  • Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy uses drugs that attack specific vulnerabilities within your cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses X-rays or other high-energy beams to damage cancer cells and stop their growth. During radiation therapy, you will lie on a table while a large machine moves around you, directing the radiation to precise points on your body.
  • Stem cell transplant: A stem cell transplant is a procedure that replaces your diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow.

How Leukemia Can Impact Your Ability to Work

With all the types of leukemia listed above, as is true for most cancers, you may not be able to continue working, especially if you need radiation or chemotherapy treatments.  The frequency of these treatments alone could impact your ability to maintain a full-time job.  Even if you were able to physically get to work, you would likely continue to experience the symptoms of your cancer, such as fatigue, fever or chills, bone tenderness, excessive sweating, and general discomfort.

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Not only would these symptoms hinder your ability to perform your job reliably and consistently, but it is also likely they will be distracting and result in an impaired ability to multi-task, focus, or pay attention to detail.  Finally, even if your cancer goes into remission, you may continue to experience disabling side effects as a result of your treatment including weight loss, memory impairment and headaches, nausea, chronic fatigue, and more.  For example, fatigue and weight loss due to chemotherapy or radiation could result in reduced stamina, making you unable to complete an 8-hour workday without taking multiple breaks or naps.

How Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick Can Help

At CCK, we understand how your ability to work can be impacted by a diagnosis of leukemia.  We can help you navigate the difficult process of applying for long-term disability benefits. If the insurance company wrongfully denies your claim, we can submit a comprehensive administrative appeal on your behalf.  The attorneys and professionals at CCK work hard to develop the strongest claim for you so that you can direct your attention to your treatment and well-being.

One of the main pieces of evidence we gather during the appeal process is our client’s medical records.  It is important to have treating doctors who are willing to support your long-term disability claim with detailed records and be willing to complete forms and write reports when necessary.  We often talk with our clients about the importance of making sure their doctor is including appropriate and accurate details in their medical records.  Some of the important things that we look for when reviewing records are physical exam findings, blood and bone marrow test results, medication or treatment changes and side effects, and the client’s account of their symptoms and functional limitations.

After gathering the necessary documentation and records, the CCK team will develop a strong and complete appeal, with arguments based specifically on the evidence.  Let the experienced team at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick help you.  Contact us now at 401-331-6300 for a free case evaluation and see if we can assist you.

Long-Term Disability claims and appeals process flowchart