Mesothelioma usually affects the pleura around the lungs, causing shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, coughing, and other symptoms. This asbestos-related cancer may affect other areas of the body and the symptoms can prevent you from working your normal job and earning a living. If you suffer from mesothelioma, you may qualify for disability benefits, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
The attorneys at Berger and Green can help you understand how to get Social Security Disability (SSD) for mesothelioma in Pittsburgh. We can help you file your claim for benefits and fight for your monthly payment if the Social Security Administration (SSA) denied your initial claim. Call us today at 412-661-1400 for a free evaluation.
How Does the SSA Determine If I Have a Disability?
The SSA maintains a list of specific criteria it uses to evaluate the severity of a wide range of medical conditions. In most cases, the SSA evaluates cancer based on:
- Its origin;
- How far it spread;
- The response to treatment; and
- Any side effects of treatment.
With mesothelioma, however, there are specific criteria. The SSA outlines these qualifications in their publication, the Blue Book. The impairment listings for this type of cancer are in Section 13.15a – Malignant Mesothelioma.
In some cases, having proof of a medical diagnosis is enough to qualify for benefits. Pleural mesothelioma is one of these diseases. If you suffer from other types of mesothelioma, you may need medical evidence to prove your cancer spread beyond its original location or recurred following treatment.
If your medical records clearly demonstrate you qualify based on either of these factors, you may also meet the criteria for the compassionate allowance program. This program offers a way for those who are extremely ill to receive approval at a faster pace than usual. If you qualify, your claim will process much quicker through the SSA and you will receive your benefits sooner. We can help you determine if you qualify and ensure your disability determination agent fully understands your prognosis.
What Evidence Does the SSA Need to Determine If I Have a Disability?
Your medical records play a key role in getting disability benefits. The SSA will not just take your word for it that you suffer from mesothelioma or that your symptoms prevent you from working. Instead, they look for medical evidence to show you meet the criteria in their impairment listings.
They may want to see hard evidence of your condition, including imaging scans and pathological results showing both the primary site and any metastatic lesions. If you had a biopsy or a needle aspiration, they will look at the notes from the surgeon and the report from the laboratory. They will review x-rays, CAT scans, MRIs, and other imaging scans.
They will look for documentation showing which treatments your doctor prescribed, how you tolerated them, and any responses you had to this therapy. They will also consider side effects of treatment, if you do not qualify for other reasons.
Can I Qualify for Benefits Without Meeting the Impairment Listing Qualifications?
If you suffer from a type of mesothelioma that does not qualify for benefits based on a diagnosis alone you may qualify for SSD benefits based on your residual functional capacity (RFC). Your RFC is an assessment of your abilities. The SSA issues your RFC after a review of:
- Your claim;
- Your medical files;
- Your doctor’s opinion; and
- An independent examination, if necessary.
This statement details how much work you can do, for how long, and how often. If the SSA finds you cannot work your current job, any previous job, or another job that you can adjust to, you may qualify for SSD benefits. We can help you understand your qualifications based on your health history and current impairments.
What Other Criteria Do I Need to Meet to Get Disability Benefits?
While many people often focus on the health criteria to get disability benefits, they are only one part of the puzzle. You will also need to meet other qualifications to draw SSDI or SSI.
To get SSDI, you need documentation to prove:
- You cannot work due to your condition;
- You currently earn income below the substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit of $1,170 for 2017; and
- You have enough work credits to qualify for benefits.
To get SSI, we will need documentation to show:
- You make less than $735 for an individual or $1,103 per couple each month; and
- You have less than $2,000 in assets—or $3,000 for a couple—not including your home, car, or other specific exceptions.
As you can see, these qualifications are quite different. Some people may qualify for one benefit, but not the other. Others may qualify for both. You may even qualify for additional government benefits. This is especially true if you meet the strict income criteria for SSI.
When we examine your case and begin building your claim, we can help you understand the qualifications for each disability program—and whether or not you meet them. This ensures you get the maximum compensation possible.
How Can I Talk to a Pittsburgh Disability Lawyer at Berger and Green?
At Berger and Green, our attorneys understand how difficult it can be to cope with a life-threatening diagnosis. We know you are struggling to come to terms with your prognosis while worrying about how to pay the bills for your family. It is our goal to ensure you get the disability benefits for mesothelioma you need.
We can help you complete your application and assist as you file your claim for benefits. We will even navigate the appeals process if necessary.
Call us today at 412-661-1400 to schedule your complimentary consultation.