While melanoma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer, if it is caught in its early stages, surgery can be curative. This is why most early stage melanoma cases are not able to qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
There are some exceptions to this rule though, including melanoma that requires aggressive surgical procedures, like amputations. You can also potentially receive benefits if your illness and required treatments severely limit your everyday abilities, including things like your ability to walk or stand, see or communicate, or perform primary job functions. For assistance in applying for disability benefits with Skin Cancer, read our tips article here.
Medically Qualifying for Benefits with Melanoma
To qualify for disability benefits, you must have a medical condition that either:
- Has or will prevent you from working for a period of at least 12 months
- have a terminal illness.
Early stage melanoma can often be effectively treated and does not typically prevent a person from working for the minimum 12-month duration. Additionally, the SSA’s Blue Book disability listing for melanoma requires:
- it has recurred in the same site after having been surgically removed
- has metastasized to lymph nodes, adjacent skin, or other locations.
Primary melanoma with no metastases does not meet this disability listing, which means that it cannot qualify for benefits through standard review methods. Instead, the SSA will need to look at your “residual functional capacity” or RFC. Through this process, the SSA determines whether your illness and the required treatments significantly limit your everyday abilities and therefore prevent you from working.
It can be challenging to show that melanoma meets the SSA’s severity level and 12-month minimum duration requirements. If your cancerous lesion(s) occur in a location like your feet, hands, eyes, or lips, and surgical removal significantly affects your ability to:
- sit, walk, stand, or balance,
- grasp, push, pull, or reach,
- see or speak,
then you may be able to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits through what is known as a “medical vocational allowance.” In other words, if you have significant limitations that make it impossible to perform any of the essential functions of your primary job, then the SSA may grant you benefits.
Getting Help with Your Claim
Many disability claims are initially denied, and the chances of a denial increase when you apply for benefits for a condition that is not recognized by the SSA as inherently disabling. This unfortunately means you will probably have a more difficult time proving your melanoma qualifies for disability. By working closely with your doctor though, you can accurately document all of your limitations associated with your cancer and the required treatments.
When faced with a more challenging than average disability application, most applicants find they need advice and direct assistance. A disability advocate or a Social Security attorney that is familiar with how the SSA reviews claims for early stage cancers can be an invaluable resource. They can assist with your application and the RFC analysis questionnaire. They can also help you prepare for an appeal hearing, if you are denied benefits.