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Brain Cancer and Disability Benefits

A brain cancer diagnosis is devastating and the affects of the disease and the required treatments certainly prevent employment. Brain cancer, no matter the type or stage, can qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). It is important to understand though that the form, grade, and stage of the cancer will affect how the SSA reviews your claim for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. For help in applying for your claim be sure to read our article Tips on Applying for Disability Benefits with Brain Cancer

Medically Qualifying with Brain Cancer

The SSA maintains disability listings in its Blue Book manual. Listed conditions “automatically” meet medical eligibility requirements, but you must still provide sufficient medical evidence to support a claim.

Advanced brain cancer appears in the Blue Book in Section 13.13. This listing requires an aggressive or advanced form of cancer that has:

  • already spread


  • returned following initial treatment.

Less aggressive forms of brain cancer and cancer of the brain that is in its early stages do not meet the Blue Book listing, but this does not mean they do not medically qualify for benefits. Qualifying may be more complicated, but it is still possible. To get disability benefits with brain cancer without meeting the listing in Section 13.13, the SSA must complete a “residual functional capacity” or “RFC” analysis. This looks at how your cancer affects your ability to work by analyzing its affects on your everyday life. To do this, the SSA reviews:

  • your symptoms,
  • medical treatments,
  • and everyday limitations and challenges.

If your RFC analysis shows you cannot work in any job due to your medical condition, then the SSA will find you disabled and therefore medically eligible for benefits. Whether you meet the Blue Book listing or must qualify through an RFC analysis, the SSA needs to see thorough medical records supporting your claim, including:

  • A report from your doctor, documenting:
    • The diagnosis
    • Type, grade, and stage of cancer
    • Progression of the disease
    • Symptoms and their affects
    • Location(s) of tumor(s)
    • Treatments attempted and their outcome
    • Prognosis
  • Imaging scans showing tumor location(s)
  • Hospitalization records
  • Post operative and other diagnostic and surgical reports
  • Physical findings, including doctor’s exams, lab reports, and clinical observations
  • Information on how your symptoms affect your everyday abilities

Getting Help with Your Claim

Advanced brain cancer cases that meet the Blue Book listing are rarely denied, but less aggressive cancers and cancer in its early stages can result in denial of benefits. Working with a Social Security advocate or disability attorney in applying can make the process of applying simpler for you. It can also potentially increase your chances of approval.

If your application for SSD is denied, you may wish to consider working with an advocate or attorney in appealing the SSA’s decision. Someone that understands the ins and outs of the disability application and appeals processes can help you build a stronger claim and can assist you in preparing for an appeal hearing as well.