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Short or Long Term disability vs FMLA


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I am new to this group and find it really helpful. I have a question that maybe one of you can give me some insight on.

My husband 45ys dx 3/04 with stageiv lung cancer, large tumor in left lung, chest wall, both adreno glands. He was healthy then, underwent radiation, and chemo, taxotere and carbo. chemo showed no progress, mets spread to kidneys, stomache and right lung. we have two children 9 &10. I am a physical and mental mess!!! Have not been able to work or concentrate very well and am on medication. Company has been understanding so far but I am at a crossroads now of either taking FMLA (unpaid) or applying for short term disability through my company (60& paid leave).

To add to this we just found out yesterday that his second tier of chemo, gemzar and cisplan failed and their are additional mets. Oncologist said his cancer is very aggressive and that it is resistant to chemo.

I am really a mess now!!! Thought it couldn't get worse. Any advice on how I proceed to support him and the kids w/o working? I am not sure I can do both.

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Fran, PM me if you want.

I am a legal secretary. I work for a very large corporation in the legal department after years with a big law firm.

Last year when my husband was first diagnosed and went through treatment my bosses kept telling me to hang in there, they were behind me, blah blah blah. I didn't apply for FMLA because I had vacation time and used that. I thought all was fine. Wrong. Had my evaluation early this year and was told because of my numerous unplanned absences which put undue pressure on a certain someone co-worker who complains about everyone and everything, my raise was cut in half. I was totally blindsided.

Needless to say when Dave's cancer returned the first thing I did was pick up the phone and call HR and ask for the FMLA application. In fact I didn't even wait for the pathology to come back before I made that call.

My advice to you: first of all, apply for FMLA. It protects you and your job. I don't care how supportive you think your company is being, you never know about people's moods and also the mood of the company. In my case one of my bosses was gonig through a traumatic separation from his wife (she left him) and he basically took it out on me. He even told me that he thought his situation was as bad or worse than mine, because, after all, his marriage died. Exact words.

It doesn't matter whether you're actually taking a block of time off without pay. Any time you take off to be with your husband or go to appointments with him protects you under FMLA if you've applied for it and been approved. It doesn't matter if you're taking vacation time to go to these appointments. Being protected under FMLA prevents any unforeseen backstabbing.

Secondly - if you and your doctors believe it is in your best interest to take short term disability because your own health is suffering right now, AND you can afford 60% of your salary, by all means DO IT. But that can and is totally separate from the FMLA that you get approved for dealing with your husband's issues.

The way our company does it and this may be part of the law, is that you get 12 weeks FMLA (480 hours) in every "rolling" 12 month period. So it's also a matter of timing.

Like I said, PM me if you want to talk more, etc.

Karen C.

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Fran, sorry I cant help with your questions but your husband DX sounds just like my husbands left lung adrenal glands chest he also had carbo/taxol and then 6 week break new scan showed cancer stayed the same except 1 adenal gland enlarged, started having back pain and had MRI done on spine and it has spread there was to start a new chemo drug on Monday dont know which one because he didnt have it oncologist wants him to have radiation on spine first we go friday to see radiologist oh and he also had 3 brain mets and had WBR early in DX. I am so worried that the new chemo wont work also. So sorry it hasnt for your husband. Prayers going out to you both and god bless your family. Charolette

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Hi Fran,

I work in a Human Resources Dept., so am familiar with FMLA. Anytime anyone is out on any kind of medical leave, our company counts that toward their 12 weeks FMLA. I believe you are only allowed 12 weeks per year. So, your disability may count as your FMLA, too. Check with your H.R. Office where you work. Personally, I would take the disability pay if you can, but I beleive you will need to get a doctor to certify that you are unable to work due to your own medical condition. God Bless,


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Lyn and Fran,

it sounds to me like FMLA is interpreted slightly differently in different places.

We have this funky sick leave policy. I have four weeks of sick leave to use every four years. This is for sick, doctor's appt., etc. HOWEVER, if I go six months without using a FULL sick day, I get the whole four weeks back. Say I go six months and don't use a full sick day, but I use 40 hours for doctors appointmenets or partial days out sick, like I go home early several days in a row feeling bad. At the end of that six month period without using a full sick day, I get that 40 hours back.

Nothing is counted against our FMLA time unless we actually apply for FMLA time.

One reason I didn't apply for FMLA time last year was because I used eight weeks of FMLA at the end of 2002 to adopt our daughter from China. Since we can only use 12 weeks of FMLA in a "rolling" 12 month period I only had four more weeks to use until the next October. So I prefered to "save" the time and start fresh the following October. I had vacation time to use and I didn't want to use up all my FMLA time in case Dave's situation got worse.

Let's say I had applied for FMLA for Dave and got approved, even my vacation time I used to be with him would have counted against my FMLA.

Does that make sense?

Bottom line, sounds like every company treats FMLA differently. I have to wonder in a strong technical and legal sense if some of the interpretations are incorrect.


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When I was dx I got 6 months FMLA. I also got STD for that 6 months. I had to exhause any and all sick days and vacation first (which I did before taking FML so as to get full 6 mo STD :wink: ). I thought 6 month was standard but now see that it varies from company to company or mine was more lax on it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

To Karen C. you gave excellent advice! Peoples mood change in a heart

beat, no matter how much they say they understand they don't. I wish

cancer was as easy as divorce. I was digusted when I read what your

boss said to you. He had alot of guts. Good luck to all!

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