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Need help in PA


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Hi all!

I am fairly new to this community and to lung cancer as well. If you happened to read my introduce yourself post, you will have noted that I was very excited that my oncologist (after being badgered by me for months) had finally agreed that I could go back to work. Terrific right! Well almost...

I call my boss and tell her that I can come back to work very soon (I had a colonoscopy and endoscopy scheduled for 8/31 and wanted to wait until they were completed). I asked about scheduling my work around my doctor's appts. and treatment times. I am still getting Avastin every 3wks. and IV vitamin C twice a week. I was working three 12 hr. shifts before I went out on medical leave. Her answer was something to the effect that we might be able to work something out, but not very encouraging. This is a woman who had my job posted before my 12 weeks FMLA was even up. I guess she expected me to drop dead on the spot or something. So I figure hell with her, I'll work it out somehow.

Next I call our Human Resources Dept. and ask what are the steps for me to come back. I explain that I would like to work myself back up to the fulltime hours that I was working before my leave. I wanted to start out doing three 8 hr. shifts, then increase to 10 hrs., and eventually work my way back to three 12 hr. shifts. The HR rep says she doesn't know if Kirsten (my boss) has a part time position open, and that I will have to ask her. So now I'm thinking, I'll just go back and do the three 12's because I can see where this is going.

I then ask about my benefits. I am currently paying $700.00 a month to keep my benefits (for me and my kids). I am a widow with 3 sons, the eldest died last August from osteosarcoma and I now have legal custody of his two small boys (2 & 4 yrs.) I am told that if I have to go out again for treatment without being back for a year, I have 4 months left on my year's medical LOA. After I use up the 4 months, I will be terminated and the cost for my benefits will increase as I will then be paying COBRA rates. She didn't know the COBRA rates, but I have been told that they may be close to double what I am now paying!

Okay, in addition if I last at least 6 months without having to go out I will need to open a new claim with disability, which means another 30 day waiting period for short term disability and another 30 day waiting period for long term disability also. That means two months with no income and benefits costing possibly $1400.00 a month!

This is very disheartening to me, especially since I have worked at this hospital since October 1986. My son was treated there for his cancer. He spent many hours in the ER there also due to problems and side-effects after his chemo. I work in the ER there and my boss knew my son and what we had been through. I wonder if she has heard of the Americans With Disability's Act.

Anyway, I have decided that I need to apply for Social Security Disability now instead of going back to work, as I can not afford the cost of insurance for much longer. I know that there is a 2year waiting period for Medicare after SS considers you disabled, and I need that to start now instead of later. I am going to apply for chip coverage for my kids if I meet the income limits. I am also researching to see if there is any kind of low cost coverage for me out there. My biggest problem is that I am not below the poverty level.

So I was wondering if anyone has circumstances similar to mine and how you are managing, or if anyone has any ideas or knows of any resources that might be available to me? (especially you folks who live in PA as I do) I have spoken to the social worker at Fox Chase where I am treated, but she knows about as much as I do. Not very encouraging :(

I would appreciate any feedback you might have.

Thanks in advance,


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I am so appalled at your employer!!! and how hyprocritical, with them being a hospital!!!!!

Some pieces of advice I would give, and I don't know if this would help or not.

Is your position a union position? because if it is talk to your union rep.

If it isn't, hey consult w/ a attorney that deal w/ medical disabilities. Because I agree with you, you are covered with the AWDA.

I totally understand, we are in a somewhat similar boat, but just slightly, but not much better off, my husband works for a medical school and it's either come back to work 40hrs (which is impossible) or don't at all.

The one saving grace for us, is that he did pay into long-term disability. But it is only 50% of his pay, so he can't qualify for SSDI. On top of that this LTD is taxable, and we have to pay for our portion of health insurance and life insurance for my husband.

I'm trying to work, but it is so difficult with my husband, I will try to go back to doing taxes full-time, if I'm able this year.

I have to ask, do you get any ss benefits for your sons, or grandsons? and yourself as a widow?

Other pieces of advice I can give, if your already haven't tried are calling your utility companies and request for a low income rate, you probably have to fill out paper work and perhaps need a note from your dr., but it isn't difficult.

Also look now into, if PA has it fuel assistance, the earlier the better.

If you have any credit card(s), call the company and try to get a lower rate. It doesn't hurt to ask.

Also in MASS we have a problem call WIC ( women, infant, children)... I believe it's a nat'l program, your grandchildren are young enough you can get vouchers for free milk, cereal, juice, cheese.

And if you haven't done so, please apply for food stamps, I can't see why you wouldn't be able to get something.

Also come tax time, you probably qualify for free income tax preparation, just check where your at. When tax time is about to come, I can give some advice as to what to do when you file this year.

I hate what cancer does, it not only robs one physically, but mentally and financially!!!!!

I hope some of this advice helps you a little.


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Back up a step and check the written employee handbook/personnel policies. Hopefully you have a copy. You need to know what the personnel policies say about employees and the FMLA. Sometimes employers bank on employees screwing up by missing deadlines etc. then they point to the policy and use it against you. So first, read it, then decide what you want to do. I believe the FMLA states they have to give you an open position- not necessarily the one you left-- but search it on line and check. Good luck.

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I just went back and read your profile and post again and I see you are stage IV--so you will qualify for SSD for you and your children--plus the hospital has long term disability insurance....so if I were you I'd apply for both and not worry about returning to work.

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Grace and Ry,

Thanks for your suggestions.

Grace I am also appalled at my employer. As I said I have been there for 20 years! They are very aware of my circumstances and yet are unwilling to try to make this work for me. I know that I could throw the AWDA at them, but then they will just put me under a microscope until they can find a reason to get rid of me.

I am already on long term disability - which is 60% of my salary. My 13 yo son gets survivors SS benefits from my husband. My grandkids get survivors benefits from my son (minimal amount because my son was only 26yrs when diagnosed and did not pay much into SS - their benefits are not even enough to cover their daycare/preschool 2 days/wk). My other son is 18 and is no longer elegible for benefits.

As I said, I have decided to apply for SSD, which I am pretty sure I will get being that I'm stage IV. My long term disability company will just deduct whatever SSD gives me from what they pay. I will not get any more money - but I need to start the waiting period for Medicare elegibility because I am having a tough time paying $700.00 a month for my benefits, and it is only going to go up.

Again, the major problem is that I am not considered below poverty level. My disability is actually similar to my take home pay, only now more than 1/4 of it goes right to pay for my benefits. Then my mortgage and car insurance use up the rest of it. So I am left to pay all other bills with my son's SS, which is not enough for us to get by on. I am looking for a way to get insurance for me and the kids for less than $700.00 a month.

I think that my income is too high to qualify for any of the state funded energy programs, although I will look into them as well as WIC for the grandkids. Thanks Grace. :) I am also going to see if I meet the income limits for Chip coverage for my children so I can remove them from my coverage at work and see how much that saves me. I did see that PA has a program for low income adults to get insurance at reduced rates. Again, I'm not sure if my income will meet the requirements but I am also going to look into it - although this insur. will not cover prescription drugs and I take about 7-8 different drugs on a regular basis so this may not even be a viable alternative as the cost of the prescriptions is probably more in the long run.

I was just wondering if anyone knew of any programs out there to help cancer patients manage financially

before we have become destitute. Thanks again for any suggestions you may have!


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Hi Sharon,

I have been reading your thread here and omg. I am so sorry about all of this! I cannot believe how incredibly insenstive your employers are being, but I guess they probably are looking at it more from the business standpoint rather than the human side. SAD!

I cannot add much to the great advice you have gotten from Grace and Ry, but this did cross my mind as I was reading your latest update. As for the medications, contact the manufacturers, explain your situation and see if they can help you out. I know that most of them offer programs that will either help you financially with the cost or supply them to you at no cost. It is certainly worth looking into.

I wish you all the best in this fight and please keep us posted!



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Sharon,you will have no problem getting SSD however you will have to wait 6 months to get any money.It will be retroactive back to the date of the initial claim.

Two years later you will automatically get medicare part A.You will have to pay for medicare part B and D if you choose to.

It would be interesting to watch some of these politicians try to live on what they feel is an acceptable means of above poverty level income.

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Check COBRA. If I am not mistaken, you have 18 months to have COBRA coverage, if you are ruled as being disabled. (from Social Security department).

The bad thing about this is the premium can rise. You should also check out all social services offered programs.

I'm so sorry you need to go through all this with everything else. Take care of yourselves. And the hospital should be ashamed of itself!


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