Can I qualify for Social Security Disability if I have Breast Cancer?
The American Cancer Society estimates that 266,120 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in 2018. Men can also develop breast cancer, but while the risk for males is one in 1,000, approximately one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Though the number of cases has fallen since 2000, the death rate from breast cancer is still higher for women than any other cancer, except for lung cancer.
Like other cancers, breast cancer is characterized by abnormal cells that grow and invade healthy tissue.
Damaged cells may form lumps or masses called tumors or break away and enter the bloodstream or lymph vessels, spreading to other parts of the body. Most breast cancers begin in ducts carrying milk to the nipples (ductal cancer) or in the glands that make milk (lobular cancer). Usually, breast cancer is first identified as a lump, but mammograms can detect breast cancer even before lumps are felt and before symptoms arise. Breast cancer may spread when damaged cells get into the bloodstream or lymph fluid and are carried to other parts of the body.
The first indication of breast cancer may be a lump, but there are other signs to watch for:
- Itchy breasts (often with nipple discharge)
- Swollen breasts
- Shoulder and neck stiffness
- Change in breast size, shape, or color
- Breast tenderness
- Nipple sensitivity or discharge
- Peeling or flaking of nipple skin
- Dimpled breast tissue
Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from the effects of breast cancer. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
Initial treatment usually involves some type of surgery to remove a tumor and determine if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes. Breast reconstruction may also be necessary.
Other treatments commonly used before and after surgery include:
- Chemotherapy used before surgery to shrink a tumor or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.
- Radiation to destroy any remaining cancer cells after surgery.
- Hormone therapy used before and after surgery to reduce the risk of cancer returning. This treatment is also used in cases where treated cancer has returned.
- Drugs (targeted therapy) specifically designed to block the growth and spread of cancer cells.
All treatment plans are based on the type of breast cancer and the stage of cancer and take into consideration any special patient circumstances.
The presence of cancer in lymph nodes will often affect the treatment plan, but not all patients with breast cancer in the lymph nodes develop metastases (the spread of cancer to other organs of the body).
The Social Security Administration recognizes breast cancer as an impairment under Section 13.10, and considers the following when evaluating all cancers or malignant neoplastic diseases:
- Origin of the cancer.
- Extent of involvement.
- Duration, frequency, and response to anticancer therapy.
- Effects of any post-therapeutic residuals.
In order to qualify for disability benefits as a result of breast cancer, you must be able to present evidence from your medical providers to prove the following about your condition:
- The breast cancer has spread to the skin, internal mammary nodes, or chest.
- The cancer has spread above or below the collarbone, spread to 10 or more nearby axillary nodes, or metastasized to other areas of the body.
- The cancer has returned after receiving anti-cancer treatment.
- The breast cancer is inoperable.
In severe cases you may qualify for a Compassionate Allowance and the Social Security Administration may be able to expedite the application process.
If do not meet the medical listing requirements, you may be able to qualify by submitting physician and hospital records showing you will be out of work at least 12 months. But the most common way to be approved for disability benefits is through a Residual Functioning Capacity (RFC) evaluation in which your treating physician fills out a long form detailing your general health. Under these circumstances, educational background plays an important part. If an applicant went to college, the Social Security Administration could determine a person is qualified for sedentary work despite severe symptoms. Women who have been employed in manual labor, such as construction or in factory positions, or have stayed at home, have a better chance to qualify.
You can apply for disability benefits online, but be sure to submit all your medical records to the SSA when first applying to speed the process. Some test results to include are:
- Biopsy results
- Oncologist reports
- Surgeon’s notes
- Detailed records of treatments received including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation
If your condition worsens while waiting for a decision, contact the Social Security Administration immediately.
Obtaining approval for benefits may take a while and may not be easy. An experienced disability attorney can help. If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer and it has affected your ability to work, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.
The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.
- The Duration of Work test. Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
- The Current Work Test. Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.
The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.
- Are you working? Your disability must be “total”.
- Is your medical condition severe? Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
- Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments? The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
- Can you do the work you did before? SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
- Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.
More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
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