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January is cervical health awareness month
Nearly 13,000 American women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2011, and more than 4,000 died from an advanced form of the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Allsup, a nationwide provider of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) representation, works with hundreds of cancer patients each year, and is raising awareness of the need for screening and preventive care during Cervical Health Awareness Month in January.
Regular Pap tests, which detect significant abnormal cell changes that may arise before cancer develops, reduce deaths from cervical cancer. Women who have never been screened or who have not been screened in the past five years face a greater risk of developing invasive cervical cancer. Most medical experts agree women age 21 (or younger, if they are sexually active) to about 70 should be screened every two to three years. Women should seek expert medical advice about when they should begin screening, how often they should be screened, and when they can discontinue cervical screenings, especially if they are at higher than average risk due to factors such as HIV infection.
Despite the effectiveness of Pap tests in preventing deaths, the most recent NCI statistics (2005) indicate that more than 20 percent of women aged 18 and older had not had a Pap test within the past three years.
According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, while routine administration of Pap tests is the best method to detect cervical cancer at an early stage, vaccines have the potential to protect women from the disease by targeting cancer-causing types of human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV, a virus transmitted through sexual contact, is the single known cause of cervical cancer.
Cervical Cancer and Social Security Disability Insurance
Some women may be unable to work due to progression of their cervical cancer or because of continuous cancer treatment. If their time away from work is expected to last 12 months or more, they may be eligible for SSDI. SSDI is funded by FICA taxes and provides benefits to Americans unable to work due to a severe, long-term disability. These benefits include:
- Regular monthly income. SSDI is a regular monthly payment and often provides annual cost-of-living increases.
- Medical benefits. Regardless of your age, 24 months after your date of entitlement to SSDI benefits, you are eligible forMedicare, including Part A (hospital benefits) and Part B (medical benefits). A variety of Medicare Advantage plans are also available. Medicare recipients are covered for cervical, vaginal and breast cancer screenings once every 24 months, or once every 12 months for women at high risk, and for women of child-bearing age who have had an exam that indicated cancer or other abnormalities in the past three years. There is no co-pay for Pap test specimen collection, or pelvic and breast exams if the doctor accepts assignment.
- Prescription drug coverage. Once you are entitled to Medicare, you are also eligible for Medicare Part D, the prescription drug plan.
- COBRA extension. If you receive SSDI benefits, the length of your COBRA benefits could be extended an additional 11 months.
- Long-term disability (LTD) benefits. If you have private long-term disability insurance, your provider will often require you to seek SSDI. Complying with this requirement could help protect your ability to receive LTD income.
- Protected retirement benefits. When you reach retirement age, SSDI ends and you transition to Social Security retirement benefits. Social Security disability entitlement freezes Social Security earnings records during your period of disability. Because the years in which you collect SSDI benefits are not counted when computing future benefits, your Social Security retirement benefits may be higher than if your earnings were averaged over a greater number of years.
- Dependent benefits. If you receive SSDI benefits and you have a dependent under age 18, he or she may also be eligible for benefits.
- Return-to-work incentives. Social Security will provide you opportunities to return to work while still paying you disability benefits.
Physical and financial health often go hand in hand. Take preventive measures to protect your health, and know your options if health concerns make it impossible to continue working. For more information on Cervical Health Awareness Month, visit the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC). You can also find free and low cost Pap tests near you. For more information on SSDI and Medicare, visithttp://www.allsup.com/. If you think you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, contact Allsup’s Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 678-3276.