Cancer is the third most common reason adults are awarded disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) reports 11.8% of all Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) applications approved in 2018 were related to a cancer diagnosis such as leukemia, lymphoma, lung cancer, breast cancer, or prostate cancer.
SSDI benefits provide a financial lifeline for cancer patients who are unable to work due to their illness. However, a cancer diagnosis won’t automatically qualify you for benefits. To increase your chances of being successfully approved, you’ll want to work with an experienced Social Security disability attorney.
Qualifying for SSDI as a Cancer Patient
Chemo and radiation can have many unpleasant side effects, including vomiting, cognitive impairment, and chronic fatigue. While there’s no doubt that these symptoms can make working difficult, you won’t be approved for benefits simply because you are undergoing cancer treatment.
To qualify for SSDI, your condition must be expected to last one year or longer or result in your death. Cancer treatment symptoms typically last less than one year and are not severe enough to prevent you from working the entire time.
Cancer that is caught in the early stages and responds well to treatment won’t qualify for disability benefits. Only advanced cancers that meet one of the following criteria are eligible for SSDI benefits:
The cancer is considered inoperable or unresectable with surgery.
If your tumor can’t be fully or partially removed, you should qualify for benefits under most cancer listings.
The cancer has metastasized to other places.
If the cancer has spread to areas of the body far from where it was originally diagnosed, this usually qualifies for automatic approval even if the original cancer was successfully removed. The SSA refers to this prognosis as “metastases beyond the regional lymph nodes.”
The cancer is recurring.
A recurring cancer is one that returns after chemo or radiation or one that was removed before returning to an area near the site of the original surgery. Recurrent cancer usually qualifies for automatic approval of benefits, even if significant time has passed between the cancer removal and the recurrence.
The criteria for receiving SSDI as a cancer patient are outlined in the Blue Book listing 13.00 Cancer-Adult.
Disability Onset Date
Cancer patients are generally awarded benefits up to six months before they were first diagnosed, based on factors such as:
- When they first reported symptoms
- What type of cancer they have
- Where the cancer is located
- How far the cancer has spread
Submitting detailed medical records, including the results of any diagnostic tests, can help ensure that you receive as much back pay as possible.
Understanding the Three-Year Rule
The SSA has what’s known as the three-year rule for evaluating cancer-related applications. If your cancer has been treated, and there is no evidence of recurrence for three or more years, the cancer no longer meets impairment listing requirements.
Alternatively, if you’ve been awarded SSDI benefits for cancer treatment, the three-year rule guarantees that you’ll be considered disabled for three years, even if your cancer goes into remission.
Disabilities Related to Cancer Treatment
Even if a patient’s cancer treatment is successful, they can be left with serious impairments. For example, heart, lung, liver, and bone problems have been linked to chemotherapy, while cognitive dysfunction and bone weakness can be long-term effects of radiation.
If you develop a disabling condition as the result of successful cancer treatment, your disability will be evaluated without considering the cancer diagnosis. The Blue Book criteria for your specific condition can offer insight as to whether your long-term side effects of cancer treatment are severe enough to qualify for SSDI benefits.
Have You Or A Loved One Been Denied Social Security Disability Benefits?
If you or a loved on has been denied Social Security Disability Benefits you need to speak with an experienced SSD attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Virginia Beach office directly at 757.490.3500 to schedule your free consultation. We have offices throughout Virginia including Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk and Suffolk.