You have a legal right to certain benefits, including workplace and partnership protections. Whether as someone who has been diagnosed or as a caregiver, you may need legal help at some point in your cancer experience. There are many local and national support services and organizations available to assist you.
Know Your Rights
Federal law provides specific employment protections to individuals with cancer. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles covered employees to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year when they or a family member is sick with cancer. FMLA protections require that employers continue to provide covered employees with the same level of health insurance while on leave.
If you leave your job or are laid off, a federal law called The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) provides most employees the right to keep their health insurance, although premiums must be paid by the employee. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides significant additional workplace, housing and educational rights. State and local laws provide individuals with cancer with additional protections and rights.
Oncology social workers are licensed professionals who can help you understand and apply for benefits you may qualify for. A CancerCare oncology social worker can help you find resources that fit your needs. To learn more, visit www.cancercare.org or read CancerCare’s fact sheet titled, “Patients’ Bill of Rights and HIPAA.”
Legal Services Resources
CancerCare’s LegalHealth Clinic
CancerCare and the LegalHealth division of the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) have joined to offer free legal clinics for CancerCare clients (people with cancer and their caregivers) who reside in New York City. LegalHealth focuses on assisting people with health care-related legal needs. LegalHealth attorneys can provide assistance with government benefits, immigration, insurance disputes, debtor/creditor issues, employment matters, housing, custody planning, estate planning and advance directives.
For more information, call 800-813-HOPE (4673).
Cancer Legal Resource Center
The Cancer Legal Resource Center (CLRC) is a national, joint program of the Disability Rights Legal Center and Loyola Law School Los Angeles. The CLRC provides free information and resources on cancer-related legal issues to cancer survivors, caregivers, health care professionals, employers and others coping with cancer. They also offer a toll-free Telephone Assistance Line (866-THE-CLRC) where callers can receive free and confidential information about relevant laws and resources for their particular situation.
LawHelp.org helps low- and moderate-income people find free legal aid programs in their communities and answers to questions about their legal rights. Use the state list on their website to find help related to housing, work, family, bankruptcy, disability, immigration and other topics.
National Cancer Legal Services Network
The National Cancer Legal Services Network promotes increased availability of free legal services programs so that people affected by cancer may focus on medical care and their quality of life. Their network includes over 40 programs nationwide.
National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership
National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership aims to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable individuals, children and families by integrating legal assistance into the medical setting. Search for local programs through their MLP Network by visiting www.medical-legalpartnership.org/partnerships.
The Samfund: Support for Young Adult Cancer Survivors
The Samfund provides support to young adults who are struggling financially due to cancer. Twice a year, The Samfund gives grants to survivors age 21 to 39 to help with medical bills, living expenses, educational/professional development, graduate tuition, student loans, cosmetic or reconstructive procedures, family building options/procedures, health insurance supplementation, mental health, physical therapy, residual and current medical expenses, transportation-related expenses, legal expenses and rent/mortgage supplementation.
Edited by Sheila Zablow, Esq., New York Legal Assistance Group