Cervical Cancer and Social Security Benefits

Submitted by Shane on

What is Cervical Cancer?

Over 13,000 women in the U.S. were effected with cervical cancer in 2018, and around 41000 lost their lives to it. Cancer of the cervix (the part of the uterus that joins with the vagina) is the second most common cancer affecting women worldwide, and those under the age of 50 are most at risk.

Cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomarvirus (HPV), the most prevalent sexual transmitted disease in the U.S. However, a test known as a Pap smear can detect changes in cervical cells before they become cancerous, and in most cases, the cancer can be prevented.

Women aged 9-26 can also get vaccinated against HPV, which significantly lowers their risk of developing cervical cancer. Women who don’t get regular pap smears are at a much higher risk of developing cervical cancer.

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits with Cervical Cancer

If you’ve been diagnosed with cervical cancer, you could be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. However, a diagnosis of cervical cancer alone isn’t enough to get you approved for benefits.

There are a few things that are essential to know if you’re considering applying for Social Security disability due to cervical cancer. First, you must not currently be working, and must anticipate being off work for at least a year.

Second, your disabling condition must be considered “severe” – meaning that it interferes with your ability to perform basic work-related activities.

Next, the SSA will evaluate whether or not your condition meets the requirements set forth in its “impairment listing” for cervical cancer. To qualify under this impairment listing, your cervical cancer must either extend outside your cervix (to the pelvic wall, vagina, or organs, for example) or be persistent and recurrent despite chemotherapy treatment.

If your cervical cancer doesn’t fall into one of these categories, the SSA will then review the evidence in your disability claim file and vocational factors to determine whether or not there’s any type of job that you would be able to perform on a full-time basis.

Keep in mind that even if the SSA decides that you wouldn’t be able to return to your previous employment due to your cervical cancer, they could still find that there are other types of work that you could do. They will also consider your age and level of education when evaluating what jobs you could do (in general, it’s easier to be found disabled if you’re older or have little education.)

Cervical Cancer and Social Security Benefits

How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits with Cervical Cancer

If you have cervical cancer and are applying for benefits, it’s essential to have obtained consistent medical care, and to have the appropriate documentation of your condition, what treatments you’ve tried, and their outcome.

The SSA will also ask for your input (and possibly that of your family or friends) as to how your cancer affects your daily functions, but objective evidence such as medical records is given more weight in the decision-making process. Ideally, your doctor’s notes would include mentions of how your conditions affect you, such as if you suffer from extreme fatigue or nausea due to chemotherapy.

Financial Cost of Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer remains the second most prevalent form of cancer amongst women despite huge strides to reduce its devastating effects. Cervical cancer is primarily caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) and spread through sexual intercourse. It is unusual amongst cancers as it can affect younger women as much as older ones.

Young women in their teens are able to be vaccinated against the HPV, a form of protection that almost but not entirely removes the threat of developing the disease. Pre cancer detection via pap tests have reduced the threat of developing cervical cancer somewhat. But over 13,000 American women will still be diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and over 4,000 will die of the disease.

The cost of treating cervical cancer, as with any other invasive cancers, is astronomical, especially the cost of purchasing new drugs available, which can reach as much as $350,000 a year. Most women cannot afford this level of treatment through their own health insurance.

It is possible for women who have been diagnosed with cervical cancer and are currently working to apply for SSD benefits, but this process is not easy as it is still imperative to prove that the applicant for benefits cannot work for the next 12 months. Given the time frame it takes to process SSD claims and the necessity to prove inability to work, a cancer sufferer may face the prospect of serious deterioration in their condition in financial uncertainty.

Trial Work Period

For any cancer sufferer currently receiving SSD payments, and who is experiencing a period of remission, the Social Security Administration (SSA) provides what is known as a trial work period every 60 months. This is a chance to get back to work while fighting cancer and find out if this is a viable option without losing rights to SSD payments.

Cancer survival rates have generally got better slightly in most western countries including the U.S., so this is something which may be a legitimate route for some cancer sufferers to regain access to the workforce, yet allows them the security of knowing that they can return to receiving full SSD payments if they experience a relapse or feel incapable of continuing the work they have taken up.

Continuation of SSD payments while a person is undergoing a trial work period depends on constant communication with the SSA. The nature of the work, earnings and expenses are all taken into consideration to determine just how much of the SSD payments that were being paid up to the commencement of the trial work period are continued. As long as the earnings from the job are less than the substantial gainful activity (SGA) amount, then SSD benefits can be maintained. The same policy is maintained if the trial work period comes to an end with a return to reliance on SSD payments.

Qualifying through a RFC Form

A Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form can be used to increase your chances of securing SSD benefits, especially if you don’t qualify for benefits through a listing in the SSA’s Blue Book. A RFC may also be completed by a Disability Determination Services (DDS) adjudicator with reference to your medical records and other documentation.

Even if your disability is clearly listed in the SSA’s Blue Book, completion of a RFC, preferably by your own physician may increase your chances of SSD benefits approval. Note that a RFC is not a compulsory component of a SSD benefit application. However, it gives a clearer picture to adjudicators of what sort of work you can and cannot do and what your functional limitations are.

The completed RFC enables an adjudicator to place you on one of the SSA’s five exertional levels. These range from the lowest level, which is “sedentary” through “light,” “medium,” “heavy” and “very heavy”. The exertional levels are based on the range of movements that you are capable of maintaining over an extended period. For example, a sedentary exertional level would mean that you cannot stand up for any protracted period and can only do very limited work while sitting down.

If you do not qualify for SSD benefits because your disability is not listed in the Blue Book, or you do not qualify through the Blue Book criteria, you may still be able to obtain benefits because of an appraisal of your RFC through being given a medical vocational allowance.

Assessment of your RFC will take into consideration your age and educational qualifications.

Talk To a Social Security Lawyer Today

If your cervical cancer diagnosis is severe enough that you will be out of work for over 12 months, then you may be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. If that is the case, then you may want to seek the counsel of a Social Security Lawyer.

A Social Security lawyer will be able to help you get all of your medical records in order and will give you the best chance of winning your case.

Additional Resources

Find Out If I Qualify for Benefits!