If you are one of over 1.6 million Americans diagnosed with cancer every year, you may be able to collect monthly Social Security disability benefits. Certain types of cancers with distant metastases or that are inoperable can qualify you for expedited benefits. If you have another type of cancer, you will need to go through the standard application process. Note, however, that not all cases of cancer merit disability. Just like with all types of illnesses and conditions, you must meet certain medical and work or financial requirements to qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
If you or a loved one have received a cancer diagnosis, call Berger and Green in Pittsburgh and speak to one of our disability attorneys about your case. We can review your case, help you collect important medical and other records, and walk you through the process of obtaining Social Security disability for cancer in Pittsburgh. Contact us at 412-661-1400 for a free consultation.
What types of cancer does the Social Security Administration consider disabling?
In Section 13 of the Blue Book, the Social Security Administration (SSA) lists all the cancers it considers a disability. Under each listing, there are certain criteria you must meet before the SSA classifies you as disabled. The long list of cancers that can qualify someone for disability include:
- Soft tissue cancers of the head and neck
- Skin cancer
- Soft tissue sarcoma
- Multiple myeloma
- Cancer of the salivary glands
- Thyroid gland cancer
- Breast cancer
- Skeletal system sarcoma
- Maxilla, orbit, or temporal fossa cancer
- Cancer of parts of the nervous system
- Lung cancer
- Cancer of the pleura or mediastinum
- Esophageal or stomach cancer
- Cancer of the small intestine
- Cancer of the large intestine
- Liver or gallbladder cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Kidneys, adrenal gland, or ureters carcinoma
- Urinary bladder carcinoma
- Cancers of the female genital tract
- Prostate gland carcinoma
- Testicular and penile cancer
- Cancer where the primary site is unknown
- Cancer treated by bone marrow or stem cell transplantation
- Malignant melanoma
How does the SSA evaluate cancer cases?
A cancer diagnosis is not a guaranteed approval for disability. The SSA will consider various relevant factors when reviewing your claim, including:
- The origin of the cancer
- The extent of involvement
- The duration, frequency, and response to anticancer therapy
- The effects of any post-therapeutic residuals
As previously mentioned, to get approved under a listing for cancer, you must also meet the appropriate severity criteria. For example, for the SSA to deem cancer of the small intestines as a disability, you must have carcinoma, sarcoma, or carcinoid with at least one the following characteristics:
- It is inoperable, unresectable, or recurrent.
- It includes metastases beyond the regional lymph nodes.
- It is small-cell (oat cell) carcinoma.
If you have a type of cancer that qualifies for expedited benefits (referred to as a compassionate allowance), such as inoperable breast cancer, Grade III brain cancer, pancreatic cancer, or peripheral nerve cancer, the SSA will quickly process your application for a faster approval.
Can I still qualify for benefits if my cancer is not listing-level?
Yes, meeting the criteria under a listing in the Blue Book is only one way to qualify as disabled for the purposes of Social Security disability. If your cancer is not listing-level, the SSA will evaluate your case for a possible medical vocational allowance (MVA), based on the fact that you cannot work.
The SSA will evaluate all of your records and consider your functional capacities. If the claims examiner finds that given your cancer, symptoms, limitations, education, and age, you cannot work in any capacity, the Administration may grant you benefits based on an MVA.
What other criteria must I meet to collect disability benefits?
The requirements for disability benefits are stringent, but straightforward. To qualify, you must satisfy all of the following criteria:
- You must meet the SSA’s definition of disabled (by meeting a listing or getting an MVA).
- Your cancer or the residual effect of treatment must have lasted or be expected to last a year or longer or result in death.
- You are not engaged in substantial gainful activity, which means that your monthly income does not exceed $1,170/month.
- You meet certain work history or financial requirements. If you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you will need to have a certain number of work credits on your record, depending on your age. If you are applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, your income must fall below the Federal Benefit Rate ($735 in 2017), and your assets and resources must amount to less than $2,000.
What proof must I provide when I apply for disability based on cancer?
The SSA will want to see all of your medical records regarding your condition from all acceptable medical sources, including:
- Records that specify the type, extent, and site of your cancer.
- A copy of the operative note and pathology report for any operative procedures that you have had.
- Summaries of other medical reports
- Evidence about recurrence, persistence, or progression of the cancer, the response to therapy, and any significant residuals.
- A list of treatments and prescriptions you have tried and are currently undergoing.
- Your doctor’s input on your condition, prognosis, and functional limitations.
Lack of sufficient medical data is one of the top reasons the SSA denies claims each year. Speak to a disability lawyer at Berger and Green for help filing the application; we will also help Social Security collect the necessary records.
Call a disability lawyer in Pittsburgh for help with a cancer disability claim.
Berger and Green in Pittsburgh has a long history of helping people with serious diseases and conditions collect the disability benefits they need. Call our office today at 412-661-1400 for a free consultation and see how we may be of service to you.