A cancer diagnosis conjures up immediate fears of death and dying, but depending on the type of cancer, when the cancer is discovered, and the type of treatment required, many cancers are very treatable and may not require many days away from work.
So what do you do if you are diagnosed with cancer? Many claimants diagnosed with cancer immediately apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). While this may be a good course of action for some claimants, many cancer patients will not qualify for SSDI benefits.
When will my cancer qualify for SSDI benefits?
In general, regardless of the diagnosis, all claimants will have to meet the following requirements to win SSDI benefits:
Their condition must last for at least 12 continuous or be expected to result in their death.
Their condition must not allow them to perform substantial gainful activity.
They must be less than their full retirement age.
Cancer can be a very serious diagnosis, but it is not unusual for some cancer patients to receive treatment and return to work in less than 12 months.
For example, if you have breast cancer and it has not metastasized, you may have the tumor removed and return to work. What happens if you applied for SSDI at the time of the breast cancer diagnosis? If your condition was not expected to last 12 continuous months, your claim would be denied, regardless of the severity of your condition at the date of application.
So what type of breast cancer would qualify for SSDI benefits? According to the SSA Listing of Impairments your breast cancer would be disabling if it met the following requirements:
It was inoperable or inflammatory carcinoma.
It was recurrent carcinoma except local recurrence controlled by prescribed therapy.
It resulted in distant metastases from breast carcinoma (bilateral breast carcinoma, synchronous or metachronous.
It resulted in sarcoma with metastases anywhere.
Winning benefits for other types of cancers
Above we outlined what a claimant would need to win SSDI benefits for breast cancer, but other cancer patients can also review the requirements to qualify for SSDI by reviewing the SSA Listing of Impairments.
Although the SSA Listing of Impairments does not list every possible condition or disease which may qualify for SSDI benefits, even if your condition is not listed it may be considered disabling if it meets or equals a listing.
If you have been diagnosed with cancer you will need to seek immediate treatment. Gather information about your diagnosis, prognosis, and your functional residual capacity to work. Talk to your doctor about whether your condition meets or equals a listing.
Winning under a medical vocational allowance
What do you do if your cancer does not meet or equal a listing but you do not think you have the ability to work? The SSA will consider all of your health conditions in their totality to determine if you are disabled.
For example, if you have other serious condition in addition to your cancer you may be able to win benefits if you can convince the SSA that you do not have the capacity to work. This is called a medical vocational allowance. Talk to a lawyer if you have questions about this process.
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