A cancer diagnosis can make it impossible to work, leaving a patient worried about both finances and health. Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits may be available to provide income to people who are disabled by cancer, but many applicants are initially denied benefits even though they have legitimate claims.
At Ginarte Gallardo Gonzalez Winograd L.L.P., our experienced SSD lawyers can help you to make an initial claim or appeal a benefits denial so you can get the income you deserve. We understand the application and appeals processes and can deal with the Social Security Administration (SSA) on your behalf.
- Can I qualify for SSD benefits based on a cancer diagnosis?
- I have cancer. What do I need to show to get disability benefits through the Social Security system?
- How can a lawyer help me get disability benefits after a cancer diagnosis?
Qualifying for SSD Benefits Based on a Cancer Diagnosis
You may qualify for benefits if you have been diagnosed with cancer and if your condition is expected to last a year, has already lasted a year, or is likely to be fatal. Your illness must also make it impossible for you to work.
The SSA uses a strict definition of “disability” in order to ensure that only truly impaired applicants receive benefits. The SSA has prepared a Blue Book or Listing of Impairments that includes conditions that may qualify. Each condition has listed symptoms that must accompany it.
Most types of cancer are in the Blue Book and are found in section 13.00 of the Adult Listings, which includes malignant neoplastic diseases.
The cancers listed in this section that may make someone eligible for disability benefits include:
- Skin cancer.
- Soft tissue sarcoma.
- Multiple myeloma.
- Cancers affecting the thyroid or salivary glands.
- Breast cancer.
- Skeletal system sarcoma.
- Lung cancer.
- Esophageal or stomach cancer.
- Cancer of the small or large intestine.
- Liver and gallbladder cancers.
- Pancreatic cancer.
- Carcinoma affecting the kidneys, adrenal glands or ureters.
- Urinary bladder carcinoma.
- Cancers of the female genital tract.
- Prostate gland carcinoma.
- Testicular or penile cancer.
- Cancers with an unknown primary site.
The SSA outlines specific symptoms and criteria for each of the listed conditions. The SSA also makes it clear that malignancies may make you eligible for benefits in most cases only if the therapies or treatments you receive do not have the intended effect and the malignancy persists or progresses.
Proving Entitlement to SSD Benefits Based on Cancer
Each type of cancer has unique diagnostic markers and associated symptoms. You will need to prove that you meet the criteria the SSA has designated for your specific condition in order to qualify for disability benefits.
For example, section 13.03 sets out requirements for qualifying for SSD benefits based on skin cancer. To qualify, a claimant must have sarcoma or carcinoma with metastases beyond the regional lymph nodes or the claimant must have:
- Melanoma that is recurrent after wide excision (an additional primary melanoma at a different site is not considered recurrent); or
- Melanoma with metastases to one or more clinically apparent nodes that can be detected by imaging studies or clinical examination; or
- Melanoma with metastases to four or more nodes if the nodes are not clinically apparent; or
- Melanoma with metastases to adjacent skin or distant sites.
You must be able to prove that you have the required symptoms with detailed medical records provided by an oncologist or another specialist who is treating you.
The process of applying for benefits and being approved can take several months. The SSA recognizes that certain conditions are very severe and that expedited approval of disability benefits may be necessary. To provide a timely response to patients suffering from these ailments, the SSA has created a list of conditions that qualify for “compassionate allowances.” Many types of cancers are found on this list, including:
- Adrenal cancer with distant metastases or that is inoperable.
- Acute leukemia.
- Bladder cancer with distant metastases or that is inoperable.
- Breast cancer with distant metastases or that is inoperable.
- Esophageal Cancer.
- Gallbladder Cancer.
- Head and neck cancer with distant metastases or that is inoperable.
This is just a brief sample of the cancers found on the compassionate allowances list. A disability attorney can help you to determine if your condition qualifies. If your condition qualifies for a compassionate allowance, the application process may be much faster and you could be approved for benefits within weeks rather than months.
Legal Help for Cancer Patients with SSD Claims
The Ginarte law firm’s experienced disability lawyers can help you apply for SSD benefits if you have been diagnosed with cancer and are unable to work. Our attorneys can also assist you in appealing an initial denial of benefits.