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What Cancer Disorders Qualify to Receive Social Security Benefits?

While many different types of cancer will qualify to receive benefits, your approval process for benefits will depend on the type, stage, location, and how well your cancer is responding to, or expected to, respond to treatment. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will also consider how long you are expected to be receiving treatment and if you would be able to return to work while you are receiving treatments, or once you have been completed.

What Cancer Conditions are Eligible to Receive Benefits?

For many aggressive cancers (such as liver, mesothelioma, pancreatic and esophageal) as well as cancers that are unable to be operated on, have returned after treatment, or those that have metastasized (spread) to other parts of the body, the application process for benefits is straight forward. However, if your cancer does not fit the categories below, you will have a more in-depth application process.

Eligible Cancer Conditions that Usually Qualify for Automatic Approval

  • Cancer has returned after initial treatment
  • The cancer is inoperable with surgery
  • The cancer has metastasized to other places in the body
  • The cancer is determined to be resistant to treatment

Which Cancers are Compassionate Allowances?

Within the SSA, there are some conditions that are so serious that they qualify as Compassionate Allowances. Compassionate Allowances are already identified as diseases or conditions that meet the SSA standards to receive benefits. For conditions that are considered in this category, the wait time for approval is much shorter and the application process is more direct.

Cancers That Simply Require a Diagnosis to Be Considered a Compassionate Allowance Are:

  • Esophageal Cancer
  • Gallbladder Cancer
  • Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)
  • Liver Cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Small Cell Lung Cancer
  • Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer

Cancers That Must Be Inoperable, Recurrent or That Have Spread From the Point of Origin to Be Considered Compassionate Allowances Are:

  • Esophageal Cancer
  • Gallbladder Cancer
  • Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)
  • Liver Cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Small Cell Lung Cancer
  • Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer

While these lists highlight the common cancers that are considered compassionate allowances, there are others that still may follow under this category that are not covered. It is important to discuss your specific type and stage of cancer with your doctor and your disability attorney to evaluate if you will qualify to apply as a compassionate allowance condition.

What Does the SSA Consider for Cancers That Do Not Qualify for Compassionate Allowance?

While the above conditions typically are automatically approved to receive benefits, there are many other types of cancers that will still qualify after the application is submitted. The SSA will look at how your cancer and treatment are impacting your ability to work and how well your cancer is responding to the treatment.

The side effects of cancer treatment and your ability to work

There are many situations where patients that are receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatments can continue performing the requirements for their employment and are thus able to continue working. If you can work and are not substantially impacted by your treatment, there is a very good chance that you will be denied receiving benefits.

However, for some cancer patients, the side effects of this intense treatment significantly impact their ability to perform their job functions or return to the workplace. While side effects may limit a patient’s functionality at a given time, the SSA will look to see if your side effects have, or will, prevent you from being able to work for a year or more. Because of this, it is very important to document your side effects in a journal, as well as with your doctor, to have a record of how these treatments have continuously impacted your life and ability to work.

What Medical Evidence Do I Need to Apply for Benefits?

As with any disability, the SSA has a specific list of medical evidence for cancers that are required to be submitted with your disability application. While there are the standard pieces of evidence that are required for all applications, applications to receive benefits for cancer will also require the below items:

  • Blood Tests
  • Lab Results
  • X-rays and/or CT scans
  • Recommended Treatment Type
  • Recommended Treatment Schedule
  • Any previously administered treatment results
  • Biopsy and/or pathology reports and results

How Long Will I Receive Benefits for Cancer After I am Approved?

Cancer is a unique disability that carries a “three-year rule” in the Social Security Administration. This means that once you are approved, you will continue to receive benefits for at least three years and then will continue to receive benefits after the three years as long as your cancer still meets the impairment requirements laid out in the blue book.

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