The average wait time for an initial application for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits to be reviewed is three to four months. In some areas, it can take significantly longer. To complicate matters further for those in need of disability benefits as soon as possible, the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies about 70 percent of the initial claims reviewed each year.
When an application is initially denied, a second review is required. If the application is denied a second time, which is not uncommon, an appeal must be filed. The process, from initial application to appeal hearing, can take a year or longer, with some applicants waiting as much as two years for a final determination on their eligibility for benefits.
As severely disabling conditions and terminal illnesses mean applicants don’t have years or even months to wait for SSD benefits, the SSA developed an alternative and expedited review and approval process for certain medical conditions. The program which governs claims containing one of these “pre-approved" diagnoses is the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) program.
Currently, there are 113 conditions on the CAL list. 52 additional conditions have been approved for compassionate allowances and will be added to the CAL list on August 13, 2012, including Merkel Cell Carcinoma with Metastases.
If you’ve received a diagnosis of Merkel Cell Carcinoma with Metastases, the information that follows may help you understand how the SSA reviews disability claims for the specific condition. It will also provide you some guidelines for seeing a quick and smooth approval of disability benefits under the CAL guidelines of the SSA.
Merkel Cell Carcinoma with Metastases – Condition and Symptoms
Merkel Cell Carcinoma is a rare and highly aggressive form of skin cancer that develops in the hair follicles or just beneath the surface of the skin. Tumors are most likely to develop on the head, neck and face, indicating sun (UV ray) exposure plays a role in the development of the disease, though in most cases, the Merkel Cell Polyomavirus (MCV) is at least partially at fault for Merkel Cell Carcinoma.
In instances where the Merkel Cell tumors are infected by MCV, treatment of the virus causes the infected cells to die, thereby stopping the progression of the carcinoma. However, about 20 percent of Merkel Cell Carcinoma has no MCV present, which means the virus is not responsible for the spread of the disease, nor can treating the virus stop the disease’s progression. The cause of non-MCV Merkel Cell Carcinoma is unknown.
Early detection, diagnosis and removal of tumors is critical. If tumors are completely removed and have not metastasized (spread) to lymph nodes in the area, about 80 percent of patients survive five years or longer. However, once lesions have metastasized, survival rates decrease significantly, and about 50 percent of those who initially appear to be cancer-free have new skin lesions and metastases develop within five years.
Treatment for Merkel Cell Carcinoma with Metastases includes the surgical removal of all skin and lymph node tumors, when possible, in addition to chemotherapy and radiation. However, because lymphatic involvement means cancer cells can spread and spread quickly to any area of the body, advanced cases of Metastatic Merkel Cell Carcinoma are treated primarily with supportive care, including focusing on keeping the patient comfortable.
Filing for Social Security Disability with Merkel Cell Carcinoma with Metastases
While Metastatic Merkel Cell Carcinoma has been approved as a Compassionate Allowance for disability benefits by the SSA, you must still complete the application process. A diagnosis alone is not enough to be found eligible for benefits.
Thorough medical records must be presented in any SSD benefits application, even when the claim is filed for a condition which falls under the CAL program. Your application should contain all available medical records, including all examination notes, test details and lab results. There should also be statements from all of the physicians who have treated the condition.
Your Merkel Cell Carcinoma with Metastases Social Security Disability Case
Although Metastatic Merkel Cell Carcinoma is now among the conditions with expedited review procedures under the Compassionate Allowances program, filing a claim with the diagnosis doesn't guarantee approval for disability benefits. You must still substantiate the disability by having a well documented case file and application. A Social Security Disability attorney can assist you in putting together your application and getting the appropriate documentation for satisfying SSA requirements.