Applying for Social Security Disability if You Have Cancer

October 31, 2013 Providence Guest Blogger

Ram Meyyappan is the senior editor and manager of Social Security Disability Help, an informational website on all things related to social security disability benefits. It contains information on how to apply for disability if you have one of more than 400 disabling conditions.

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, it may become difficult for you to continue working. In these situations, disability benefits can sometimes help.

Some forms of cancer automatically qualify for disability benefits through the compassionate allowances (CAL) program, which requires minimal medical records and other documentation. Other types of cancer qualify as long as they meet the severity level requirements laid out in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) Blue Book. It’s also possible for some applicants to prove – through extensive medical records and other documentation – that they are disabled despite not falling into one of these two categories.

Compassionate Allowances

Certain cancers automatically meet the medical criteria for receiving Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. These conditions are listed with the SSA’s CAL program, which is designed to minimize the wait for disability benefits.

A CAL diagnosis puts your disability application on a fast track, meaning you may have a decision on your claim in a few weeks. Most applicants wait at least four months for an initial review of their claims. While CAL speeds up the review and approval process, you must still complete the full application process and also submit appropriate medical records for documenting your diagnosis and the severity of your cancer.

Find more information on compassionate allowances and a complete list of conditions that qualify here.

Meeting a Blue Book Listing

If you suffer from a form of cancer not included in the CAL program, or your disease hasn’t progressed to the point that it’s eligible under CAL, you can still potentially receive disability benefits. You’d need to provide the SSA more extensive medical records, documenting:

  • Where the cancer originated
  • The formal diagnosis
  • The stage of the cancer
  • The treatments you’ve undergone
  • What the effects of your treatments have been
  • How long the disease has been present
  • The prognosis

Listings for various forms of cancer appear in the Blue Book in Section 13.00 for adults and 113.00 for children. Cancer is evaluated under the listing for the body system in which the cancer originated.

Residual Functional Capacity and Medical Vocational Allowances

Even if your cancer doesn’t qualify for CAL and doesn’t meet any of the listed conditions in section 13.00 or 113.00 of the Blue Book, you can still potentially qualify for benefits. In order to do so, the SSA you’ll need to establish your residual functional capacity (RFC).

Essentially, this means the SSA will evaluate your medical records and RFC report forms to discover how severely your everyday abilities are affected by your cancer and the treatments you undergo.

If the RFC analysis completed by the SSA shows you’re so severely limited by your cancer that you’re unable to work in a job you’d otherwise be qualified for, then the SSA can grant you disability benefits under a medical vocational allowance.

The SSA’s Disability Programs

There are two disability programs patients with cancer might qualify for:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – available to qualified disabled workers who earn less than $1,040 per month and have enough work credits built up from the last 10 years of their employment.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – available to disabled individuals, regardless of work history, provided they fall within income and asset limitations for the program.

For more information on SSDI and SSI, visit the Social Security Administration website.

Applying for Benefits

The application process for disability benefits requires the completion of several forms. The SSA’s website walks you through the application, or you can schedule an appointment to complete your application in person, via an interview with an SSA representative at your local office.

Call 1-800-772-1213 to schedule your appointment, or begin your application online at any time. Either way, be sure to follow up by submitting copies of as many of your medical records as possible to your local SSA.

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