The National Cancer Institute estimates that, in 2014 alone, more than 1.6 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed. About 40.8 percent of all men and women will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetimes, according to the same source.
Cancer can cause various local and systemic health problems. As those symptoms surface, it may become increasingly difficult for cancer victims in Illinois to maintain their normal activities, including work. Fortunately, Social Security Disability benefits may be available to help victims who meet certain criteria or prove work is no longer feasible.
The Social Security Administration directly recognizes certain types of cancer as qualifying conditions. These include:
- Small cell cancer of the lungs
- Mesothelioma of the pleura
- Inflammatory breast cancer
- Metastatic spinal cord or brain carcinoma
- Gall bladder, bile duct, liver or pancreatic cancer
People who suffer from these conditions and meet the SSA’s non-medical criteria may qualify for benefits based solely on medial documentation. Acceptable documentation includes medical imaging, blood work and notes from the treating physician.
People who suffer from other types of cancer must provide more extensive documentation. When determining whether to award disability, the SSA takes several factors into account, including tumor location, development and lymph node involvement. The SSA also considers the efficacy of treatment and any adverse symptoms that persist after treatment.
Benefits will not be awarded if the SSA decides an applicant can work gainfully while suffering from cancer. The SSA makes this evaluation based on the applicant’s current health, job requirements, education and work history. If applicants submit a Residual Functional Capacity form, which is a medical evaluation of physical limitations resulting from the cancer, the SSA will also consider that information. If the SSA deems some form of employment feasible, benefits will not be awarded.
Qualifying after health changes
People who were denied benefits after their initial SSD application may qualify for benefits if the cancer spreads. Cancer that has metastasized beyond the nearest lymph nodes often meets the SSA’s criteria, unless the lymph node was removed. If cancer metastasizes after an SSD application has been denied, the applicant can reapply for benefits.
Some types of metastasized cancer qualify for the SSA’s Compassionate Allowances program, which provides expedited processing for disability applicants with serious medical conditions. Qualifying metastasizing cancers include bladder, breast, head, neck and lung cancer. People who suffer from a recognized Compassionate Allowances condition are almost guaranteed approval, provided that they supply sufficient medical documentation of the condition.