Social Security has benefitted millions of disabled Americans to date. For those suffering from debilitating illnesses such as cancer, Social Security can be an irreplaceable asset. But how can you tell if your cancer qualifies you for disability insurance?
Social Security’s Blue Book
The Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates all illnesses based on their “Blue Book”. This book is a collection of every disability the SSA recognizes as severe enough to qualify for benefits.
Because cancer varies greatly within itself, there is an entire section of the Blue Book dedicated just to it and other Malignant Neoplastic Diseases.
When evaluating a cancer diagnosis, the SSA considers four things:
1. The origin of the cancer
The cancer’s location plays a large role in determining how disabled you are. For example, lung cancer can be especially debilitating by inhibiting the patient’s breathing and making them unable to work, move around, or lead an independent life.
2. The extent of involvement
This refers not to your involvement in the healing process, but to the cancer’s “involvement” throughout your body. The more pre-sent the cancer is, the more likely it is debilitating enough to qualify for benefits.
3. The duration, frequency, and response to anticancer therapy
This includes biopsies, surgery, hormones, transplants, medications, chemotherapy sessions, and any other in- and out-patient therapy. Cancers that do not respond well to treatment or have elongated healing processes are more likely to qualify for benefits.
4. Effects of any post-therapeutic residuals.
This refers to any side effects caused by anticancer therapy. Strong side effects can sometimes contribute to a person’s inability to work, making them more qualified for disability benefits.
In short: the SSA is more likely to qualify cases where the cancer is more resilient, wide-spread, and/or debilitating. If your cancer is present in the Blue Book, prevents you from working, and requires more than one year to heal, chances are high that you qualify for disability benefits.
Other Options for Qualifying for Social Security
If your type of cancer is not featured in the Blue Book or you are unsure of whether or not you qualify, applying for Social Security is still an option. Cases that don’t meet Blue Book standards can still qualify for a “medical vocational allowance”. This is the SSA’s way of saying, “You don’t meet our qualifications exactly, but your case is still severe enough to receive bene-fits.”
To qualify, you must apply for Social Security and provide documentation to prove the severity and longevity of your impairment. Documentation includes operative notes, pathology reports, lab results, doctor’s notes, medical bills, and all other paperwork that can demonstrate your need. If approved, you can still receive Social Security benefits.
Seeking Additional Advice
Regardless of the severity of your situation, there are a few steps you should consider taking before applying for benefits. To start, speak with your oncologist about potentially qualifying. Their medical knowledge of your situation could help determine whether or not Social Security may be right for you.
Second, consider speaking with a Social Security disability attorney. Their legal expertise with cases like yours could not only help you qualify, but could make your application process more simple and less intimidating.
For more information, you can review the Blue Book and application requirements on the SSA’s website.