Social Security Lawyer: Does Having Cancer Qualify as a Disability For Social Security Disability Benefits?

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and want to know if your illness will qualify you for disability benefits, here’s what you need to know.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has strict rules they must follow to approve or deny a claim based on an applicant’s medical condition(s). Not all medical conditions are automatically considered disabling. You may be able to get disability benefits from Social Security if you have a condition that meets the definition of “disability” under the law, but not all illnesses do.

When considering applying for Social Security Disability Insurance it’s a good idea to consult with a social security lawyer who can guide you through the legal process. In the meantime, let’s explore some eligibility criteria for Social Security Disability benefits for Americans diagnosed with cancer.

To be eligible for disability benefits, you must qualify with the following:

  • Have worked 5 of the last 10 years, and have made contributions from your paycheck into the Social Security (FICA) fund.
  • Self-employed can still apply, but they must demonstrate that they paid social security taxes while self-employed
  • Applicants must be able to demonstrate an inability to work due to the medical condition
  • Have a medical condition that is expected to last over one year or result in death
  • Not have a partial or short-term disability
  • Meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of a disability
  • Be younger than the full retirement age defined by the SSA of 66 years old

Social Security Disability Insurance is available to anyone regardless of income level or financial need.  Eligibility for cancer will require convincing evidence to prove your cancer meets the criteria for the SSA’s particular cancer list, or your symptoms or treatment limit your ability to work and will do so for more than 12 months.

For cancers that are inoperable, unresectable, have recurred following treatment, or have metastasized to other areas, you may be eligible for disability benefits. The requirement for convincing evidence is exactly why it is best to work with a social security lawyer who has experience with these matters

Failure of Surgery or Treatment can affect your eligibility for Social Security Benefits

It is considered “unresectable” if surgery removes your tumor but not entirely (or partially). This partial removal will allow you to receive disability benefits under the SSA’s impairment lists for most types of cancer. If your surgery margins are clear, you will be considered unresectable and eligible for benefits under many cancer lists.

Your cancer will be considered “recurrent” if your tumor grows back after surgery or if it is found in the same area as the original surgery. Recurrent cancer is automatically eligible for disability benefits under most cancer listings, as are most cancers if they are deemed inoperable. Additionally, specific side effects that occur after surgery may potentially qualify you for SSDI in a different category of eligibility.

Cancer Spreads Can Increase Your Eligibility

If cancer has spread, applicants are usually eligible for automatic approval under the Cancer Listings, even though original cancer and the metastatic lesion may have been removed. However, the SSA might wait to see if metastasizes (secondary cancers) respond fully to chemo and radiation.

Metastatic lesions are generally diagnosed through biopsy. Therefore, the SSA will need the relevant biopsy report. Sometimes, however, metastatic lesions cannot be accessed for biopsy due to the patient being too ill or the location preventing the doctor from performing a biopsy. If a biopsy cannot be performed, the SSA must receive a copy of any x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, or other tests that showed the metastatic lesion.

Long Term Cancer Treatment Side Effects

Some cancer patients find it impossible to work due to the side effects of cancer treatment. Radiation and chemotherapy can have a major impact on your ability to function normally, and treatments can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, as well as skin and mental disorders. Many side effects from radiation or chemotherapy are temporary and fluctuate throughout treatment and, therefore, will not meet the one-year eligibility requirement. 

Many people who have survived cancer suffer from permanent side effects, and these side effects can often not be seen until months or even years after treatment. It’s much easier to receive Social Security Disability Benefits for long-term side effects from chemo and radiation than short-term ones.

A Social Security Lawyer Can Help You Apply

There are many situations that can disqualify you for SSDI benefits even if you have been diagnosed with cancer. It is best to reach out to a social security lawyer as early as possible to ensure you have appropriate documentation and notes related to your cancer, treatment, and side effects. A social security lawyer specializes in assisting individuals as they apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. 

Reach out now for your free case evaluation from a qualified social security disability lawyer.

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