Tips on Applying for Disability Benefits with Cancer

Cancer in its more advanced stages automatically meets the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) disability requirements, but qualifying with an earlier stage or less aggressive form can be very difficult. It is still possible to qualify in some cases, regardless of what grade or stage of cancer you have.

Use the following information to build a strong application, thereby increasing your chances of an approval.

Review the Disability Listing for Your Cancer

Your illness may meet or closely match the SSA’s disability listing. If so, then you may be able to get Social Security Disability (SSD) without going through additional rounds of reviews and without having to appeal a denial. You can find the SSA’s cancer listing in Section 13.00 of the SSA’s Blue Book.

Even if your cancer will not qualify for benefits under a listed impairment, reviewing the appropriate listing can help you:

  • better understand what medical records are necessary
  • how the SSA reviews cancer disability claims.

The SSA’s Blue Book is written for medical professionals. You may need your doctor’s help in understanding some of the information in Section 13.00, especially the diagnostic tests and other procedures the SSA needs to see in your medical records.

Tips on Applying for Disability Benefits with Cancer

Work with Your Doctor to Document the Lasting Nature of Your Limitations

Even though your illness and the required treatments certainly prevent you from working, the SSA requires you have been or will be disabled for at least a year in order to get benefits. With treatable cancer, you may not clearly meet this 12-month requirement.

Your goal must be to show that the residual effects of your illness and required treatments have left you unable to work in any job for which you are qualified. To accomplish this, you will need to work closely with your doctor to document all of the effects of the disease and the treatments.

No limitation you experience is too small to document. The SSA will take each one into consideration when determining eligibility.

Prepare for Additional Reviews and Appeals

You will have a harder time qualifying for benefits if your cancer is treatable and not in a more advanced stage. Additional review steps will be necessary before you have a final decision on your claim.

These steps may include:

  • A residual functional capacity (RFC) analysis,
  • A reconsideration or a second review,
  • An appeal hearing before an administrative law judge.

Even before beginning your application for benefits, know that you will probably face additional reviews. Keeping this in mind from the start allows you to continue to build your case file even after submitting your application for benefits.

You can accomplish this by:

  • Continuing to see your doctor on a regular schedule.
  • Getting copies of all new medical records that accumulate after the date you file your application.
  • Formally tracking of all the ways in which your everyday abilities are limited by your medical condition. A journal or record book is good for this purpose.

By continuing to build your records and collect documentation, you make it easier to provide the SSA updates on your ongoing disability.

Get Help with Your Claim from the Start

Before beginning your application, consider consulting an attorney or an advocate that specifically deals with disability claims. Someone that is familiar with how the SSA reviews cancer applications can assist you by:

  • providing targeted advice
  • helping you prepare the strongest claim possible.

A Social Security Disability lawyer or advocate can help you complete your application, understand communications from the SSA, and prepare for additional reviews and appeals, if necessary. They can assist through every step in the application and review processes and can even represent your interests at an appeal hearing.

Additional Resources

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