Depending on your current health, future prognosis, and other specifics of your case, you may qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) based on your breast cancer diagnosis. In fact, some people with this diagnosis who file a well-documented qualifying application can receive their benefits in less than a month. This is possible through the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Compassionate Allowances program.
At Berger and Green, we help people in and around Pittsburgh get the SSD benefits for breast cancer that they deserve. If the SSA denied your claim or you have other questions about the application process, call us at 412-661-1400 to schedule a time to speak with a disability lawyer.
How can breast cancer cause me to develop a disability?
Cancer, even in its early stages, is a serious diagnosis that can cause severe symptoms and limit your ability to work. In addition, depending on the type of breast cancer and how advanced it is, you are likely going to undergo treatment, including one or more of these common options:
- Radiation; and
- Surgery, including lumpectomy or mastectomy.
All three of these treatments can play a key role in eliminating the cancer from your body and giving you the best chance at full recovery. However, they all cause side effects that could keep you out of work. Chemotherapy and radiation often lead to fatigue, nausea and vomiting, headaches, memory loss, and a significantly depressed immune system. All of these side effects can cause a temporary disability while you receive the treatments. Many women also report experiencing a prolonged period of pain, weakness, and difficulty raising their arms and lifting things following some surgical procedures to treat their cancer.
How can I apply for disability for breast cancer?
You can apply for SSD online or at your local office. Before you can apply, however, you need to ensure you qualify and collect evidence to prove your claim.
The SSA publishes a book of impairment listings, sometimes called “the Blue Book.” These impairment listings explain the conditions that qualify for disability benefits. When it comes to breast cancer, you qualify if your medical records show any of the following:
- A cancer that spread locally, such as to the chest wall, skin, or ipsilateral internal mammary nodes;
- Cancer that spread to the nodes around the collarbone, to 10 or more axillary nodes, or to distant parts of the body;
- A recurrence of a previously treated carcinoma, except when the recurrence is local and treatment is effective;
- Small-cell, or oat cell, carcinoma; or
- Cancer with secondary lymphedema requiring surgery to restore function to an arm.
Even if your diagnosis does not meet these criteria, you may still qualify. If your condition is preventing you from working, our attorneys can help determine if you qualify for disability benefits.
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What type of evidence do I need to present to qualify for SSD?
The SSA requires your condition to be adequately documented in your medical records and other paperwork. This often requires copies of PET scans and other imaging tests to show the site and size of the primary tumor and any metastatic lesions. They will want to see the lab results identifying the type of cancer and tests showing how you are responding to treatment.
If you had a needle aspiration, biopsy, or lumpectomy, they will want to see the operative note and accompanying pathology report for that procedure. If you have not had these procedures or these documents are not available, they will analyze the summary of your medical records to understand your current health condition and the treatment you are undergoing.
If you are claiming you cannot work because of treatment side effects, this needs to be well-documented in your medical records. Discuss your need to file for disability with your doctor, and ensure every physician you see understands the importance of mentioning the effects you experience in your charts. This can play a key role in getting you the benefits you need.
Do I qualify to get disability benefits faster through the Compassionate Allowances program?
The Compassionate Allowances program grants some people faster access to their SSD benefits. You may qualify if you show medical proof the cancer has spread to a distant part of your body or your tumor is inoperable or unresectable.
You cannot apply directly to this program, but the SSA will grant you access if you meet their stringent qualifications based on the evidence presented. It takes most people several months to gain access to disability benefits even if they qualify. Those in the Compassionate Allowances program can receive their first check within a few weeks.
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Do I need to talk to a lawyer about disability for breast cancer?
An attorney can help you apply for disability benefits. At Berger and Green, we can review your case to ensure you have the proper documentation to support your claim.
If your claim was denied, our attorneys will go to work helping you file a request for reconsideration and navigating the rest of the appeals process. If you find yourself facing a denial of benefits, give us a call and let us ensure you get the disability payments you deserve.
How can I reach a Pittsburgh disability lawyer?
At Berger and Green, our attorneys work with many people facing a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. We understand how this type of illness can impact all aspects of your life and know how important disability benefits are to you and your family. Call us today at 412-661-1400 to schedule a time to discuss how we can help you fight for the benefits you deserve.