Cancer is a disease that does not discriminate. The term “cancer” is an umbrella term for a collection of more than 100 different diseases in which abnormal cells begin to grow and spread uncontrollably in the body. These cancer cells do not die but rather continue to multiply, attacking other healthy tissues, organs, and blood vessels throughout the body and leaving harmful tumors in their wake.

The American Cancer Society has reported that cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. In 2017, there were an estimated 1,688,780 new cancer cases diagnosed and 600,920 cancer deaths in the US.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees the distribution of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). In order to qualify for either of these kinds of benefits, you must meet the definition of disability per the SSA guidelines. In order to do that, there are three specific criteria that must be met and proven:

  • You cannot do the work you did before you became disabled.
  • You have a physical or mental condition that will keep you from learning how to do a different kind of work.
  • Your condition is expected to last or has already lasted at least a year or will result in your death.

In order to receive disability benefits from the SSA, you have to serious medical conditions that are with you long-term. Because of this, you may have difficulty being approved for benefits if you have a less advanced form of cancer.

In addition to the monetary benefits of SSDI, you will also be considered eligible for Medicare two years after you’ve started receiving disability benefits. If you qualify for SSI, you may also be automatically eligible for Medicaid in many states, though some states do require a separate application for the program.

Meeting the Medical Listing

In order to meet the medical listing for a specific type of cancer and get benefits approval, you must meet the criteria under the SSA’s own list of disabling conditions, the Blue Book. Here, you can find the SSA’s criteria for specific types of cancer under section 13.00. Types of cancers include:

13.01 Category of Impairments, Cancer (malignant neoplastic diseases)
13.02 Soft tissue cancers of the head and neck
13.03 Skin
13.04 Soft tissue sarcoma
13.05 Lymphoma
13.06 Leukemia
13.07 Multiple myeloma
13.08 Salivary glands
13.09 Thyroid gland
13.10 Breast
13.11 Skeletal system–sarcoma
13.12 Maxilla, orbit or temporal fossa
13.13 Nervous system
13.14 Lungs
13.15 Pleura or mediastinum
13.16 Esophagus or stomach
13.17 Small intestine
3.18 Large intestine
13.19 Liver or gallbladder
13.20 Pancreas
13.21 Kidneys, adrenal glands, or ureters–carcinoma
13.22 Urinary bladder–carcinoma
13.23 Cancers of the female genital tract–carcinoma or sarcoma
13.24 Prostate gland– carcinoma
13.25 Testicles
13.26 Penis
13.27 Primary site unknown
13.28 Cancer treated by bone marrow or stem cell transplantation
13.29 Malignant melanoma

Because each listing requires very specific criteria with detailed medical terms, you should consult with your physician to see if you meet the requirements of the medical listing for disability. However, you can still be approved for benefits if you don’t meet the listing criteria or if you have a form of cancer in an earlier stage by using a residual functioning capacity (RFC).

Qualifying with a Residual Functioning Capacity

If you don’t meet the medical listing requirements for disability, you can still meet approval with use of an RFC. This detailed form will explain your limitations and how your life has been impacted by your cancer. Even if your cancer was caught early, in stages 1, 2 or 3, you may not be able to work because of the treatment process.

The RFC allows your treating physician to explain how your cancer and its treatments, as well as any other medical conditions, are impacting your ability to function. As an example, you may have to go for treatments two or three times a week. These treatments may leave you fatigued, nauseated, and weak, which make it impossible for you to stand long shifts or walk significant distances.

Surgical procedures or ports for treatments may make it difficult for you to lift, bend over or grasp items. Your doctor may indicate you cannot lift more than 5 pounds two or three times a day, he may say you have to reposition every hour or two, he may limit your physical activity, and you may require additional rest. All of these limitations make it clear that you cannot perform any kind of work because of your medical conditions.

Filing for Benefits

If you are ready to apply for disability benefits from the SSA you don’t have to do it alone. You can get the help of an attorney. An attorney can go over the facts of your case. They are familiar with the process and can make sure you provide all the needed documentation and notes.