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Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis and Social Security Disability

Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis (LCs) is a complication of some cancers—especially lung cancer, breast cancer, and melanoma—in which tumors spread to meninges near the brain. Meninges are membranes that protect the Central Nervous System. LC's are often terminal, and the prognosis is generally poor, even when treated. Survival ranges from several weeks to three months in most cases.

LC's are usually diagnosed using MRI or other body imaging scans of the Central Nervous System and a spinal tap. Common symptoms include headaches and nausea, memory and sensory problems, and body weakness. Central Nervous System symptoms are grouped in three categories: Cerebral, Cranial Nerve, and spinal-root. Cerebral symptoms include headaches and changes in behavior, Cranial Nerve symptoms are more sensory-based, and spinal-root symptoms are marked by neck and back pain.

Like many cancers, standard treatments for LC's involve a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. There are also medications and radiation and physical therapies to help manage the symptoms of LC's.

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits with Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis

In order to receive Social Security disability benefits, you must first be considered disabled by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Your LC will be evaluated according to the SSA's guidebook of disabling conditions, the blue book. In general, you must match the listing that corresponds with your condition.

As a complication of cancer, LC's are evaluated according to blue book section 13.13 Malignant Neoplastic Diseases of the Nervous System. You may also qualify according to the listing for the cancer associated with your case's site of origin. In general, cancers must be aggressive or inoperable, and continue to spread despite therapy.

The Social Security disability application process can take months to complete and receive a decision. However, the SSA is able to pay benefits quickly to those who have a particularly severe and clearly life-threatening disability that is listed in a program called compassionate allowances. LC's are one of several cancers included on the compassionate allowances list.

If you qualify, you can expect to receive approval from the SSA within a month.

The Application Process

Compassionate allowance applications are begun the same way as any Social Security Disability benefit application—online or during an interview with a SSA representative.

First, you must gather all of the medical information you will need for the application. You should have records of medical visits and doctor's notes and results from definitive lab tests which confirm your diagnosis.

If your application is denied, you may choose to submit an appeal within 60 days of receiving the denial, or you will have to begin a new application.

You must be as detailed as possible about your condition to improve your chances. The application also requires high levels of organization and determination. Seek help from a disability attorney before giving up. These benefits can help improve quality of life and alleviate the financial stress associated with medical disabilities.