Cancer of the Pleura or Mediastinum and Disability Benefits: What You Need to Know
Pleural cancer, which is also known as malignant mesothelioma, involves abnormal growth in the tissue that lines the chest wall and encloses the lungs. The majority of pleural cancers are secondary from other tissues or organs (metastatic) although primary cancer of the pleura can manifest itself as localized mesothelioma or diffuse malignant mesothelioma. In most cases, the condition is triggered by prolonged exposure to asbestos.
Cancer of the mediastinum form in the section of the chest that separates the lungs. This area, which contains the aorta, heart, esophagus, trachea, and thymus, is encircled by the spine in back, breastbone in front, and the lungs on each side.
Cancerous tumors in these areas can manifest the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Fluid buildup between the two layers of the pleura
- Cough accompanied by fever
- Bone and joint pain
These cancers are fast-acting and, in their advanced stages, prevent you from working. To compensate for the lost income and obtain assistance with treatment costs, you are encouraged to apply for Social Security disability benefits.
Medically Qualifying with Cancer of the Pleura or Mediastinum
Cancer of the Pleura or Mediastinum has a specific listing in the Blue Book, which is the SSA guidebook for disabling medical conditions and the criteria for qualifying. According to Listing 13.15 Cancer: Pleura or mediastinum, the SSA will consider you disabled if any of the following criteria apply to your condition:
- Malignant mesothelioma of pleura OR
- Tumors of the mediastinum with metastases to or beyond the regional lymph nodes or which persistent recur after anticancer therapy OR
- Small-cell (oat cell) carcinoma
When you apply for disability benefits, your doctor must submit medical documentation that provides the following information:
- A positive diagnosis for cancer
- The extent of its involvement
- Frequency, duration, and response to anti-cancer treatments
- Any post-treatment residual effects
- Pathology report
- Operative notes
You will also need to complete and submit a residual functional capacity (RFC) form that thoroughly documents the ways that cancer has impaired you physically and/or mentally. The SSA will use the information to rate your functional capacity and determine if you qualify for benefits.
Malignant mesothelioma and mediastinal cancer are among the conditions that qualify for the SSA’s Compassionate Allowances program. This means that your disability application process will be expedited, allowing you to start receiving benefits in a few weeks. If your cancer is inoperable, unresectable and/or metastasized past a certain point, you meet the medical criteria.
Should your symptoms not meet a Blue Book listing for any reason, the SSA will evaluate the extent of your impairment and possibly award you a medical vocational allowance.
Getting Help with Your Cancer Claim
If you are battling cancer, you probably don’t feel up to struggling for your benefits. Hiring a Social Security disability attorney will give you the help you need to complete the extensive paperwork, collect the required medical documentation and launch an appeal if your application is initially refused. By working with an experienced attorney, you stand a much higher chance of getting the disability benefits you need during a difficult time of recovery.