A diagnosis of cancer can be devastating. Cancer can result in major upheaval to all facets of your life, including your ability to work and earn a living. If you are in this situation, you may be able to replace some of your lost income with disability benefits for cancer.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) understands that cancer can be debilitating. Even the treatment for cancer can make you very ill. If your pain and symptoms become so overwhelming that you cannot work for a sustained period of time (at least 12 months), you may qualify for disability benefits.
What Is Cancer?
Cancer is a general term used for a collection of related diseases. Cancer is made up of abnormal cells created by a person’s own body. According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer occurs when abnormal cells “begin to divide without stopping and spread to surrounding tissues.” It can occur anywhere in the body.
The abnormal cells may continue to form until they become growths called tumors which can interfere with the functioning of the body’s organs and systems. Cancer that occurs in the blood, such as leukemia, may not form solid tumors, but the cancerous cells replace the normal blood cells and prevent normal function.
SSA’s Cancer Listings
Although any type of cancer may result in disability, the SSA specifically lists cancers that are commonly severe on the Adult Listings (Part A), Category of Impairments 13.00. Each of these listings includes a description of medical findings that qualify as “severe.” If your medical findings match or are equally as severe as the findings for your type of cancer in the listings, you will qualify for benefits. The following cancers are listed:
â Soft tissue cancers of the head and neck
â Soft tissue sarcoma
â Multiple myeloma
â Salivary glands
â Thyroid gland
â Skeletal system–sarcoma
â Maxilla, orbit or temporal fossa
â Nervous system
â Pleura or mediastinum
â Esophagus or stomach
â Small intestine
â Large intestine
â Liver or gallbladder
â Kidneys, adrenal glands, or ureters–carcinoma
â Urinary bladder–carcinoma
â Cancers of the female genital tract–carcinoma or sarcoma
â Prostate gland–carcinoma
â Primary site unknown
â Cancer treated by bone marrow or stem cell transplantation
â Malignant melanoma
Even if your medical findings do not match or equal the listing for your type of cancer or you have a type of cancer that is not listed, you may still qualify for benefits. You will need to prove that your condition is expected to last for more than 12 months or result in death, and you cannot do your past work or adapt to other work that would be appropriate given your age, education, and experience.
How to Prove Cancer Resulted in Your Disability
When evaluating the severity of cancer, the SSA considers the following:
• Where your cancer began – You need to provide verifiable tests or other evidence that indicate an onset date for your cancer. The site and body parts that are affected should also be described thoroughly.
• How widespread your cancer is – Images and test results should also show how large or how extensive your cancer is. The size and area affected should be shown through tests like MRIs, CAT scans, or laboratory blood work. The SSA will also want to know exactly how the cancer is limiting your abilities.
• Efficacy and effects of cancer treatment – The SSA wants to see if your cancer has reacted positively, negatively, or at all to any treatment. At times, anticancer therapies may cause additional limitations on your abilities. It is important to show what kind of treatment you have received since the onset date and how it has affected you.
• Long-term consequences and residual effects – Cancer can have life-altering effects. Although cancer may go into remission, and your tests indicate that you are no longer afflicted with the disease, you may still be limited by residual effects of the disease and treatment that you underwent.
Medical evidence provided to the SSA must include specific information. You must show the type, extent, and site of the primary, recurrent, or metastatic cancer. Even if you and your doctors don’t know where your cancer started, proof that it exists in specific locations or which body part it is affecting can be enough.
You should be able to provide operative notes, pathology reports, and other medical documents describing hospitalizations and other medical treatment you’ve received. Your medical documents should show both the severity and endurance of your cancer so that the SSA can make a determination about disability.
A cancer diagnosis can be scary, especially if your symptoms are debilitating. You may have to endure treatment that causes you just as much pain and sickness as the disease itself. Despite this, to prove that your cancer is severe enough to qualify for disability benefits, you will probably need to provide extensive medical documentation to the SSA.
Our Social Security disability attorneys can help you gather and organize your evidence before you apply for disability benefits for cancer. If you claim is denied, we can represent you at a hearing before an administrative law judge. Call the Hermann Law Group at 914-286-3030 for more information about how we can help you.