Is Cancer a Disability? | Qualifying for Benefits

Is Cancer a Disability? Qualifying for Disability Benefits

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Facing a cancer diagnosis and undergoing treatment can impact your life in every conceivable way, even limiting your ability to work. This is where Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can help.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) both offer essential financial support to individuals who are unable to work due to a medical condition. Therefore, people diagnosed with cancer who are unable to engage in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) may qualify for benefits.

Eligibility for Social Security Disability With a Cancer Diagnosis

The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees the approval and denial of disability claims. They use a guide known as the Blue Book to evaluate applications. Section 13.00 of the Blue Book is dedicated to cancer-related impairments.

To qualify for SSDI or SSI, a claimant must prove that their cancer meets or equals a qualifying impairment listing. Their condition must also be expected to last for a minimum of 12 months or result in death.

A cancer diagnosis doesn’t guarantee a claimant will receive benefits. Some cancer patients qualify for SSD because of illness-related disabilities, while others qualify due to treatment side effects.

Qualifying for disability is more likely if a claimant’s cancer diagnosis fits into one of the following categories:

  • Inoperable cancers or cancers that are resistant to treatment
  • Recurring cancers
  • Metastasized cancers

What Types of Cancer Qualify for Disability?

Under Section 13.00 in the Blue Book, there are several impairment listings for malignant conditions. These include:

  • Soft tissue cancers of the head and neck
  • Skin cancer
  • Soft tissue sarcoma
  • Lymphoma
  • Leukemia
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Salivary gland cancer (carcinoma or sarcoma with metastases beyond the regional lymph nodes)
  • Thyroid gland carcinoma
  • Breast cancer
  • Skeletal system sarcoma
  • Maxilla, orbit, or temporal fossa cancer
  • Nervous system-related cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Pleura or mediastinum cancer
  • Esophagus or stomach cancer
  • Small intestine cancer
  • Large intestine cancer
  • Liver or gallbladder cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Carcinoma of the kidneys, adrenal glands, or ureters
  • Urinary bladder carcinoma
  • Cancers of the female genital tract (carcinoma or sarcoma)
  • Prostate gland carcinoma
  • Testicular cancer
  • Penile cancer (carcinoma with metastases to or beyond the regional lymph nodes)
  • Metastatic carcinoma or sarcoma with primary site unknown (after appropriate search for primary), except for squamous cell carcinoma confined to the neck nodes
  • Cancer treated by bone marrow or stem cell transplantation
  • Malignant melanoma

If a claimant’s condition doesn’t fit the criteria of any listing, they may still be eligible for disability benefits. An applicant can receive benefits if they prove that their condition is equivalent in severity to a listed impairment.

Disabilities Resulting from Cancer Treatment

Many cancer treatments come with a variety of disabling side effects. Even when a cancer treatment is successful, patients can develop serious, sometimes chronic medical conditions.

Many applications for SSDI or SSI are a result of cancer treatment side effects, such as those caused by chemotherapy. Treatments that result in disabilities are evaluated separately from the cancer diagnosis.

Determining the Disability Onset Date

Claimants may receive disability benefits for a period dating back up to 12 months before they received a diagnosis. This is based on the disability onset date.

Claimants must provide comprehensive medical documentation, such as test results, to substantiate their claimed onset date. The SSA considers various factors, including date of first reported symptoms, cancer type, location, and stage when reviewing a disability onset date.

Compassionate Allowances Program

When a claimant has a condition that clearly meets the SSA’s qualifying criteria, they can be granted benefits quickly through Compassionate Allowances. This initiative speeds up the disability review process for severe medical conditions, including some cancers and rare diseases.

Cancers that may automatically qualify for benefits under Compassionate Allowances include:

  • Adrenal cancer with distant metastases or that is inoperable, unresectable, or recurrent
  • Breast cancer with distant metastases or that is inoperable or unresectable
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Ependymoblastoma (Child Brain Cancer)
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Large intestine cancer with distant metastasis or that is inoperable, unresectable, or recurrent
  • Adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Bladder cancer with distant metastases or that is inoperable or unresectable
  • Non-small cell lung cancer

For those with cancer or serious side effects after cancer treatment, applying for disability benefits can alleviate financial burdens. Reach out to Slepian Ellexson, PLLC, if you’re struggling to maintain gainful employment due to cancer. Our skilled disability attorneys can help you obtain the benefits you need.

The Three Year Rule: Cancer in Remission and Disability

Individuals awarded SSD benefits for cancer treatment are automatically considered disabled for three years, even if their cancer goes into remission.

The SSA applies the Three Year Rule when reevaluating cancer-related disability claims. A person may no longer qualify for Social Security Disability if their cancer has been in remission without recurrence for at least three years.

VA Disability Rating for Cancer in Remission

If your cancer has been linked to previous military service, you may qualify for VA disability. Typically, the Department of Veterans Affairs rates service-related cancer diagnoses at 100% disability.

The VA disability rating for cancer in remission is a critical aspect of the department’s continuing evaluation process.

Once a veteran’s cancer enters remission, the VA doesn’t automatically remove their disability rating. Instead, the rating remains at 100% for six months. It’s then adjusted based on residual effects or ongoing symptoms related to the cancer or treatment. This approach recognizes that cancer can have lasting impacts on a veteran’s health and ability to function, even in remission.

Contact Slepian Ellexson, PLLC

Given the complexities surrounding SSD applications, consulting with a qualified attorney can be highly beneficial. At Slepian Ellexson, PLLC, our SSDI and SSI lawyers in Phoenix, AZ, assist clients at every stage of the application process. From initial filing to appeals, we’ll stand by you.

Our experience in Social Security Disability law allows us to help clients file effective applications supported by medical evidence. We know what the SSA is looking for when they review cancer disability claims. This means we know exactly what information to provide and what evidence is crucial to a case.

If you’re asking, “Is cancer a disability?” contact us today for a free consultation. Our team can help clarify your eligibility.

Disability Benefits for Cancer: Common FAQs

Is lung cancer considered a disability?

Yes, many forms of lung cancer qualify for SSD. Some examples include non-small cell, sarcomatoid carcinoma, small cell lung cancer, Carcinoma of the superior sulcus, and Pulmonary Kaposi Sarcoma (KS). Other lung cancers may qualify under Blue Book listing 13.15, which includes pleura and mediastinum cancers like pleural mesothelioma.

Is breast cancer considered a disability?

Breast cancer can qualify for disability benefits under Blue Book listing 13.10. Sarcomas of the breast are evaluated under listing 13.04.

Does thyroid cancer qualify for disability?

Thyroid cancers are evaluated under Blue Book listing 13.09.

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