How to Apply for Social Security Disability with Cancer

by GregP_WN

If you have been diagnosed with cancer and are unable to work, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees two forms of disability benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both programs were designed to help people in need. 

How To Apply For Social Security Disability With Cancer

Various Kinds of Cancer

A cancer diagnosis can be a traumatic experience, so your emotional and mental health should be given consideration during your claim as well. It is not abnormal to suffer from anxiety or depression after receiving such a diagnosis. You should also note any side effects from your treatments or medications and how those impact your life as well. 

There are dozens of kinds of cancer. The SSA uses a medical guide, which is called the Blue Book, to determine whether an individual meets the criteria to receive disability benefits. When it comes to cancer, there are several listings. You need to meet the criteria specified for your particular kind of cancer. 

Blue Book Criteria

The Blue Book

As an example, if you have been diagnosed with esophageal cancer you will qualify for benefits with just the diagnosis. If you have colon cancer, it must have spread to distant regions or other organs to medically qualify per the Blue Book guidelines. If you have been diagnosed with a germ cell cancer of the ovaries and have experienced a recurrence or advancement of the disease after a round of treatment, you are eligible for benefits. 

For those of you with lung cancer, it depends upon the kind of cancer and its progression. The majority of those diagnosed with lung cancer suffer from a non-small cell type of cancer. Small cell cancers spread much more quickly and is very aggressive. If you have non-small cell lung cancer that is inoperable, could not be completely removed during surgery, has spread, or is recurrent, you are eligible for SSDI benefits per the Blue Book. Small cell lung cancer or cancer located at the top of the lungs that has undergone more than one kind of treatment is also eligible. 

Medical-Vocational Allowance

Even if your cancer does not meet the criteria set forth in the Blue Book, you may still be eligible for benefits by using the medical-vocational allowance. This approach involves using a residual functioning capacity (RFC) which explains your limitations in details. As an example, if you are unable to stand more than two hours or you have to reposition yourself every hour because of your cancer and treatments, that should be indicated.
Any limitations regarding walking, lifting, and carrying things should also be noted. All of your medical conditions, treatments, and medication side effects should be noted so they can accurately be considered. When this approach is used, your age, educational level, work experience, and transferable skills are considered. After it has been determined you are unable to return to your regular work duties, the disability determination team has to make sure you are not able to do some other form of work, such as lighter duty work or sedentary work.

The Application Process

Ssd Application Process

When applying for SSDI or SSI, you need to provide as much documentation as possible to prove your disability. Include medical records, tests records, surgical notes, treatment notes, and documentation that show how your ability to work and perform daily tasks has been impacted by your illness and by your treatment regimen. In order to receive disability benefits, you have to prove you will be completely disabled for more than a year or that you have a condition that is terminal. 

The disability approval process can be time consuming. While some forms of cancer may warrant fast approval, others may take months to get benefits approval. You can be denied benefits twice, and you can appeal the ruling. The final step would be to request a hearing before an administrative law judge who can approve your claim based on evidence that has been presented. 

Providing documentation and medical records is essential in proving your disability and winning your claim. According to the SSA, it takes an average of five months to get approval for benefits. To apply for benefits, visit the SSA website at

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Do you have any helpful information to add to this? Have you been through the process? What tips can you offer others that may be applying for Social Security Disability because of cancer? Please comment below. 

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