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How to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits With Cancer

How to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits With Cancer
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Published on March 24, 2019

cancer-drug-costs_medIf you have been diagnosed with cancer, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits to help cover living expenses while you undergo treatment. The Social Security Administration uses the “Blue Book” or a list of all the impairments that qualify for disability benefits, to determine who is eligible to receive benefits. There are two separate ways that someone can qualify for disability benefits due to a cancer diagnosis. 

Automatically Qualified Cancers

The first way that people who have been diagnosed with cancer can qualify for Social Security Disability benefits is if the type of cancer you have is automatically eligible for benefits according to the Blue Book. If you have one of these types of cancers, usually all you need is paperwork showing a cancer diagnosis in order to start receiving benefits. 

Additionally if your cancer is stage III or higher, is inoperable, it has spread to another part of your body, or is terminal you can start receiving benefits in as little ten days after you apply through the Compassionate Allowance Program. The types of cancer that automatically qualify you for benefits include:

  • Esophageal cancer
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Inflammatory breast cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Salivary cancers
  • Sinonasal cancer
  • Any small cell cancer
  • Thyroid cancer

Other types of cancer still can be eligible for benefits but may require more paperwork and extensive medical documentation in order to start receiving benefits. 

Medical Vocational Allowance

If you have gotten an early cancer diagnosis and your cancer can be treated but you still expect to be out of work for at least 12 months or if you won’t be able to work while you are getting treated, you can still qualify for Social Security Disability benefits through the Medical Vocational Allowance. This is a program designed to bridge the gap and give you the money that you need to live on while you are in treatment or dealing with the after effects of treatment for cancer. 

The SSA will perform a Residual Functional Capacity evaluation to determine if there is any type of work that you can do. If you can no longer do the job you’ve been trained to do and have experience doing, they will evaluate your physical condition, your skill set, and your education to see if you are qualified and able to do another job. If you have a low Residual Functional Capacity, meaning that there is no work that you can do with the education, physical ability, and skill set that you have, you can still get Social Security Disability benefits so that you will have money to live on. 

Applying for Social Security Disability 

You can apply for Social Security Disability benefits online right now. If you want to apply online, you can start your application right away and submit medical documentation of your condition later on. Or, if you’d rather submit your application in-person at an SSA office so that you can get some help from an SSA employee, just find your local office and make an appointment. If you have trouble completing the application; a friend, family member, or caregiver can complete it for you. 

Helpful Links:

Rachel Gaffney
Outreach Specialist, Disability Benefits Center

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.


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