Esophageal Cancer and Social Security Disability

This year alone, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is expected to receive more than three million applications for Social Security Disability benefits. Unfortunately, approximately 70 percent of applicants have historically been denied disability at the initial stage. Should these applicants wish to receive benefits in the future will then have to go through the lengthy and stressful disability appeal process – a process that can take more than two years to complete.

In 2008 the SSA took measures to address severely disabling conditions by implementing the Social Security Compassionate Allowances initiative. This program enables certain individuals to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits without undergoing the standard disability claim process. Instead of having to wait months or even years for an approval of Social Security Disability benefits, these applicants may be approved for benefits in less than a month.

Esophageal cancer is one of the 88 conditions that qualify for expedited disability claim processing under the Compassionate Allowances guidelines. If you have been diagnosed with esophageal cancer and you are wondering how the condition affects your eligibility for Social Security Disability payments, the following information can help shed light on the disability claim process and how the Compassionate Allowances guidelines may affect your claim.

Esophageal Cancer Conditions and Symptoms

The esophagus is the muscular tube in the body that moves food to the stomach from the mouth. When a malignant tumor develops in the tissues lining the esophagus, it is referred to as esophageal cancer. There are two types of esophageal cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. In cases of squamous cell carcinoma esophageal cancer, the cancer begins in the flat cells that line the esophagus. In cases of adenocarcinoma esophageal cancer, the cancer begins in the cells that create and release the mucus and other fluids found in the esophagus. Most cases of esophageal cancer are of the squamous cell variety.

Esophageal cancer is a very serious condition. In 2010 alone, more than 16,640 new cases of esophageal cancer were reported in the United States and 14,500 deaths occurred due to the condition. Most cases of esophageal cancer that are diagnosed in the U.S. occur in the lower portion of the esophagus and this particular type of cancer is most commonly diagnosed in men who are more than fifty years of age.

The causes of esophageal cancer can be hard to pinpoint, although certain factors do increase an individual's risk of developing the condition. Barrett's esophagus (caused by GERD) is a condition that can increase an individual's risk of developing esophageal cancer. Alcohol consumption, obesity, poor nutrition and smoking are all also risk factors that increase a person's chances of developing esophageal cancer.

The symptoms of esophageal cancer vary from patient to patient, but common symptoms of the condition include a backwards movement of food through the esophagus, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, heartburn, vomiting of blood and unexplained weight loss. If a case of esophageal cancer is suspected, a doctor will conduct a variety of tests to diagnose the condition. Test that may be performed include barium swallows, biopsy, chest MRIs, thoracic CTs, PET scans and endoscopic ultrasounds.

The treatment of esophageal cancer will vary depending on how far the cancer has spread. If the cancer is only present in the esophagus, surgery may be able to remove the cancer from the patient. Chemotherapy and radiation may also be provided to assist in the treatment of this condition. In many cases of esophageal cancer, the cancer is not able to be removed. In these cases, treatment will focus on alleviating the symptoms of the cancer and making the patient as comfortable as possible.

Filing for Social Security Disability with Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is a serious and debilitating condition and the treatments involved can also have a negative impact on an individual's quality of life. Due to the severity of the condition, esophageal cancer has been listed as one of the 88 conditions that qualify for claim processing under the SSA's Compassionate Allowances initiative.

When filing a claim for Social Security Disability benefits based on a diagnosis of esophageal cancer, you will need to provide as much medical evidence as possible to the Social Security Administration. Lab results, treatment records, and written statements from your treating physicians will all assist in the processing of your Social Security Disability claim.

Is Esophageal Cancer A Disability?

If you have been diagnosed with esophageal cancer, it can be stressful, and you may find yourself unable to work and earn a living. You may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), which could help you cover your medical expenses and basic living costs. The SSA uses a medical guide, which is called the Blue Book, to determine if an individual qualifies for disability benefits.

There are two more common kinds of esophageal cancer – squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. This cancer of the esophagus, which is most often in the lower portion of the tube connecting the stomach and the throat, is often not discovered until the later stages. Because it is not found until later, the patient may have a poor prognosis. Esophageal cancer has no symptoms in the early stages, so the patient often doesn’t realize there is a problem until later.

The Blue Book has sections that apply to apply to different body systems and each section has multiple listings that are for medical conditions that may apply to that body system. Each condition has medical criteria that must be met for the claimant to qualify for disability benefits.

The Blue Book has listings under which esophageal cancer could qualify for disability benefits just by showing that he or she has a confirmed diagnosis of carcinoma or sarcoma of the esophagus. The stage of the cancer doesn’t matter just so long as the diagnosis and kind of cancer are confirmed.

Esophageal cancer has various symptoms could include difficulty swallowing, unintended weight loss, chest pains, severe heartburn, digestive symptoms, hoarseness, and coughing. Esophageal is a rare condition with fewer than 200,000 cases diagnosed across the country every year. It may be treated with medications, surgery, radiation or chemotherapy, or other supportive and palliative care may be necessary depending on the severity of the condition, the stage of cancer, and the symptoms suffered.

Sometimes the treatments themselves can be disabling. Medications, radiation, and chemotherapy can cause debilitating symptoms and have negative side effects, such as fatigue, nausea, confusion, anxiety, and much more. You should make note of any side effects that the treatments cause you. You want to provide as many details as possible about your condition, so you have painted a clear picture should there be any questions about your cancer diagnosis.

Compassionate Allowances

The SSA has a list of 88 serious conditions included on a listing for the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) program. If a condition is on this list, then it will qualify for disability benefits just so long as the claimant provides the supporting documentation that confirms the diagnosis and that the claimant has the specified condition that is on the list.

While a condition on the CAL list doesn’t require as much documentation, you need to make sure you do have your medical records readily available so the disability examiner can confirm your diagnosis and make a decision regarding your claim.

Carcinoma or sarcoma of the esophagus is included on the CAL. So, as previously mentioned, if you can provide a confirmed medical diagnosis with the supporting medical records, then your claim will be approved. While a regular disability claim could take several months to be approved, a claim that is on the CAL should take just a few weeks to be processed and approved.

You should know that a CAL claim can be denied, but that would only be because the claim lacked the supporting evidence and medical records that were needed to confirm the disability claim. You should prepare a detailed list of your medical providers, their contact details and treatment dates.

Many compassionate allowance claims are processed and approved in anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks. While other medical conditions require a five-month wait for the claimant to be awarded disability benefits, that is not the case with a condition that is on the CAL. The key to a successful CAL claim is providing hard medical evidence and documentation.

How A Social Security Attorney Can Help You With Your Disability Claim

Disability claims can be challenging. When you complete the application for benefits, you must answer every question in detail and accurately. You must also provide supporting documentation that shows the severity of your condition and how it affects your daily functioning. For a condition on the CAL, you need to provide the proof of diagnosis and the other necessary details so an informed decision can be made regarding your claim.

Your lawyer will gather the supporting evidence and documentation that your claim needs and will then review the details to make sure everything is in order so your case can get a fair review from the disability examiner. With the right hard medical evidence, your claim will be approved just so long as your condition meets the criteria established by the SSA.

When you retain the services of a disability lawyer, your chances of having your claim approved increase greatly. You will not have to pay anything upfront or out of pocket to retain an attorney to represent you through the disability claims process. Disability lawyers work on a contingency basis. That means that your attorney will not be paid until you win your claim. At that time, your lawyer will receive 25 percent of your backpay, but it cannot exceed $6,000.

If you are applying for disability benefits for esophageal cancer, or if you have applied and your claim was denied, talk with an attorney who handles disability claims in your area. Complete the Free Case Evaluation Form on this page to share the details with an attorney who represents disabled workers in your area.

Monthly disability benefits can help you with your living expenses as well as your medical care, so getting your benefits underway as quickly as possible can have a major affect on your overall health and your outlook on battling the cancer.

Your Esophageal Cancer Social Security Disability Case

Even though esophageal cancer is one of the 88 conditions that qualify under the SSA's Compassionate Allowances guidelines, you must still provide the Social Security Administration with sufficient medical evidence to support your disability claim and ensure that all necessary documentation is supplied properly to ensure a quick and hassle-free approval of your disability benefits. While it is not common for applications based on a Compassionate Allowances listing to be denied by the Social Security Administration, it does happen on occasion. Because of this, you should consider retaining the services of a disability advocate or attorney when submitting a Social Security Disability claim based on a diagnosis of esophageal cancer.

When working with an advocate or attorney, the professional assisting you in your claim will help you gather the necessary medical evidence to support your application for disability benefits. He or she will also help you present your application in the best light possible, ensuring that the adjudicator who is reviewing your file understands the severity of your condition and how it qualifies for processing under the SSA's Compassionate Allowances guidelines.

To learn more about the Social Security Compassionate Allowance listings or to find out whether you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits due to a case of esophageal cancer, fill out a request form for a free evaluation of your disability case today.