Skip to main content

Social Security Disability for Cancer

Social Security Disability for Cancer

According to data released by the American Cancer Society, 1.7 million cases of over 200 kinds of cancer are diagnosed every year. Although some forms of cancer are easily treated and non-invasive, other forms must be treated aggressively. If you receive a cancer diagnosis and decide to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Social Security Administration (SSA) may be able to process your application quicker than others.

Regardless of type, cancer of any kind is debilitating. Cancer itself is physically and psychologically compromising, and common treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, and biologics can make it impossible to work while you are fighting cancer.

On top of that, cancer treatments have steep financial repercussions due to prescription drug costs, medical bills, and, frequently, lost wages. You may be out of work only for a short time while you receive treatment, but others may be unable to return to work for months or years, if they are able to return at all.

SSA expedites reviews of disability applications for claimants whose diagnosis is on its Compassionate Allowances list. Most cancers will fall on this list if: 1) the cancer is inoperable; 2) the cancer has spread beyond where it originated; or 3) the cancer is recurrent even with treatment.

SSA also has a list of requirements called the Blue Book that your disability must meet in order to qualify for SSDI benefits. If your cancer does not meet the Blue Book requirements, that does not mean you are prohibited from getting SSDI benefits. Rather, it means that your case will go through additional reviews, called residual functional capacity (RFC).

Under RFC, you will have to show that your cancer, your treatments, and the side effects of those treatments are so severe that they make work of any kind impossible for you to perform. You will have to complete functional report forms that ask you about your daily life so that SSA can better understand your limitations.

As you might imagine, medical records are critical to getting approved, so you should work closely with your doctor to make sure SSA has everything it needs to conclude you have proved your disability sufficiently. SSA typically needs the following: 1) any biopsy results or pathology reports that document the kind of cancer you have; 2) imaging scans that indicate the location of tumors and where the cancer has spread, if applicable; 3) surgical or biopsy notes from a physician that explain why the cancer is inoperable; and 4) details of your cancer treatments, how often you undergo them, and what their side effects are.

Certain kinds of cancers will result in your immediate approval for SSDI benefits, including pancreatic cancer, oat cell lung cancer, inflammatory breast cancer, pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma, and esophageal cancer.

If your cancer is in remission, your SSDI benefits will not be affected unless your remission is expected to last for at least three years. SSA monitors anyone receiving SSDI benefits every 2-3 years and sends out written requests for updated information on your status.