Yes, it is possible to get Social Security disability for cancer. Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is a serious, often life-changing event. Thankfully, decades of cancer research have increased the odds of beating some cancers, and have extended the length of survival with others. However, cancer and the treatment protocol usually make it difficult, if not impossible, to be gainfully employed, at least for a period of time.
Does Everyone With Cancer Get Social Security Disability Benefits?
No. If your cancer responds well to treatment and you can return to your previous normal life and support yourself through gainful employment, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will determine that your cancer is not disabling and you will be ineligible for benefits.
How Do I Qualify for Disability Benefits for Cancer?
The SSA has developed a detailed set of requirements to determine if a person meets the medical requirements to receive disability benefits. This set of requirements, called the Listing of Impairments, is extremely technical and full of complicated medical jargon.
For example, if you have skin cancer, the Blue Book requires that your skin cancer be a sarcoma or carcinoma that has metastasized to the regional lymph nodes or beyond, OR that your carcinoma has penetrated structures that are deep beneath the skin, such as bone, cartilage, or muscle.
A medical diagnosis of cancer of the liver, gallbladder or bile ducts, however, can meet the medical requirements of the Blue Book, without any requirement of metastasis.
What if My Type of Cancer Is Not in the Listing of Impairments?
The SSA admits that it cannot possibly contain every possible medical condition that could cause a person to be unable to work. If you have a cancer not listed in the Listing of Impairments, or one that does not meet the severity criteria, you might still be able to qualify.
If we can prove that your cancer is so disabling that you are unable to work, the SSA might grant you a medical vocational allowance.
To determine whether you are eligible, the SSA will examine your medical records and your residual functional capacity (RFC) form.
When your doctor fills out your RFC form, he will ask you to complete various basic work-related functions and determine your limitations from there. For example, your doctor might ask you to do any of the following:
If he determines that your limitations allow you to do only sedentary work (e.g., office work), the SSA might determine that you are not disabled. However, if your doctor determines that your cancer does not allow you to do any work, you may qualify for Social Security benefits.
If necessary, we can get you in touch with a doctor who can help fill out your RFC form.
What Medical Evidence Do I Need to Provide?
We will need to provide evidence of where your cancer first appeared, and how extensive the cancer is.
We will have to give details of your cancer treatment, including how many treatments you have undergone, how frequently you have treatments, how long your doctor expects to do the treatments, and how you are responding to the treatment.
We will also need to show any residual effects of the cancer therapy.
We can document this through:
- Doctor’s notes
- Surgical notes (including for biopsies)
- Pathology reports
- Imaging records
- Hospital records (or summaries)
- Other medical records
What Else Will I Have to Show in Addition to My Medical Information?
There are other requirements for receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. These include:
- You cannot earn more than the 2017 earning limit, which is $1,170 per month. If you are earning more than this limit, the SSA will determine that, although you have cancer, it is not preventing you from working.
- You must have enough work credits. In other words, you must have worked and paid in to the Social Security system for long enough to have accumulated sufficient work credits to be eligible for disability benefits.
I Do Not Have Enough Work Credits. What Can I Do?
Not everyone meets the requirements for SSDI. If you are disabled but have not worked long enough to qualify, you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a safety net for people with limited income and little assets.
Once I Get Social Security Disability Benefits for Cancer, Can I Ever Lose My Benefits?
Yes. If your cancer goes into remission for a long enough period of time, the SSA might consider you no longer eligible for benefits. (The SSA defines remission as the disappearance of the original tumor and locations where it metastasized, for at least three consecutive years, unless the Listing of Impairments contains a different time period for your type of cancer.)
If, however, your cancer has left you with sufficient residual impairment such that you are not able to work, you may be able to still receive disability benefits.
What if My Cancer Comes Back?
If you have been in remission and your cancer returns or you get another occurrence of cancer, contact the SSA.
Disability Determination Services will evaluate you again.
Is There Anything Different About How the SSA Processes Cancer Disability Claims?
The SSA gives some disability claims expedited processing. This depends on the type of the cancer and the expected outcome. The SSA has a Compassionate Allowances Initiative (CAL) that expedites the processing of claims for certain serious medical conditions.
You can see the full list of Compassionate Allowances conditions here.
What Should I Do if My Cancer Gets Worse?
You should contact the SSA if your condition significantly changes. This is especially true of you were initially denied disability benefits.
Get Help Filing for Disability Benefits Today
The process of filing for disability benefits for cancer is complicated and frustrating. The disability lawyers at Law Offices of Ogle, Elrod & Baril, PLLC will guide you through this process and fight to get you the benefits you deserve.
Call us today at 866-628-8179 for your free, no-obligation consultation.