Cancer and Qualifying for SS Disability Benefits
Can I get disability benefits if I have Cancer?
Author Attorney Lloyd Bemis:
If you are suffering from the effects of a type of cancer you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Some forms automatically qualify while others do not depending on the severity of the disease.
There are more than 200 types of cancer that can affect men, women and children of all races and cultures.
It is estimated that 1,762,450 cancer cases will be diagnosed in the United States in 2019, many of which will be treatable.
There are five main categories of cancer:
- Carcinomas – cancer that begins in the skin or tissues that line the internal organs
- Sarcomas – cancer that develops in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle or other connective tissue
- Central nervous system – cancer that begins in the brain and spinal cord
- Lymphomas – cancer that begins in the immune system
- Leukemia – cancer that begins in the blood and bone marrow
The body is made up of trillions of cells which have specific functions and life spans.
In a normal body, cells divide as the body needs new cells to replace old or damaged cells. This process is called apoptosis. Cancer cells ignore the body’s signals to stop dividing, growing out of control and crowding out normal cells. Old or damaged cells survive and new cells form even when they are not needed. The immune system normally removes damaged cells from the body, but cancer cells are sometimes able to “hide” and avoid being destroyed.
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 a type of Cancer. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
Some cancer cells form growths called tumors while others grow in the blood and are transported via lymph nodes.
Cancerous tumors that spread to other tissues and organs are called malignant; tumors that do not spread are called benign. Benign tumors can grow to be quite large, but when removed, they do not grow back. Cancer cells can break off from tumors and travel to a different part of the body and form a new tumor. When cancer cells spread it is called metastasis.
Cancer is basically caused by changes to genes that control how cells function.
A person’s genetic code tells cells when to divide and when to die. Changes in genes can cause errors in instructions to genes that result in cancer and as cancer grows, cells undergo additional mutations in DNA. Some genetic changes occur naturally when DNA is replicated during the process of cell division, but others are the result of exposure to the chemicals in tobacco smoke, radiation, or ultraviolet rays of the sun. Though there may be no determinable cause of cancer in an individual, major risk factors include smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, poor nutrition, and excess body weight.
The most common types of cancer are:
- Lung cancer
- Breast cancer
- Colon cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Basal cell cancer
Though there is currently no cure for cancer, early detection can greatly improve an individual’s prognosis.
Treatment depends on the type of cancer, stage of cancer, if the cancer has spread, and the general health of the patient. The same cancer in one person is different in another, but the goal of treatment is always to kill cancer cells without damaging normal cells.
The three main treatments used are surgery to remove tumors, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, but other therapies may also be employed:
- Targeted therapy – targets the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival.
- Immunotherapy – uses substances made by the body or in a laboratory to slow or stop the growth of cancer cells and aids the immune system in destroying cancer cells.
- Hormone therapy – medications that slow or stop the growth of cancers such as breast cancer or prostate cancer that depend on hormones to grow.
Even though a diagnosis of cancer is serious, it doesn’t guarantee approval for SSDI benefits.
The Social Security Administration recognizes cancer as a disorder in its Blue Book under Section 13.00 Cancer and cancers such as lymphoma and those associated with HIV under Section 14.00 Immune System.
Some cancers automatically qualify for Social Security Disability benefits (inflammatory breast cancer, esophageal cancer, pancreatic cancer, pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma, oat cell lung cancer, primary cancer of the liver, bile ducts, or gall bladder, and certain types of brain or spinal cord cancers) and many progressive cancers are eligible for expedited benefits as compassionate allowances. In other cases, the cancer must be inoperable, the cancer must be recurrent despite surgery or other treatment, or the cancer must have spread to other parts of the body to be approved.
Social Security requires specific medical evidence documenting a cancer diagnosis:
- We need medical evidence that specifies the type, extent, and site of the primary, recurrent, or metastatic lesion. When the primary site cannot be identified, we will use evidence documenting the site(s) of metastasis to evaluate the impairment under 13.27.
- For operative procedures, including a biopsy or a needle aspiration, we generally need a copy of both the:
- Operative note, and
- Pathology report.
- When we cannot get these documents, we will accept the summary of hospitalization(s) or other medical reports. This evidence should include details of the findings at surgery and, whenever appropriate, the pathological findings.
- In some situations we may also need evidence about recurrence, persistence, or progression of the cancer, the response to therapy, and any significant residuals. (See 13.00G.)
If you do not meet the impairment requirements set by Social Security, you may qualify for benefits under a Medical Vocational Allowance if Social Security determines that you cannot return to your past employment or engage in another form of work.
Any form or stage of cancer can be debilitating and severely impact a person’s work life.
The physical effects of the disease, psychological strain, and time required for treatment make it very difficult to maintain gainful employment.The amount of time missed from work may be anywhere from a short temporary absence to a much longer extended period and sometimes result in loss of employment.
Living with cancer also presents financial challenges.
Necessary medical procedures such as biopsies and surgeries and typical treatments involving chemotherapy, radiation, and medications are all very expensive, even with medical insurance. The high cost of cancer treatment combined with a loss of employment income can create a heavy financial burden.
Monetary relief for those suffering from cancer and its effects can come in the form of private short-term and long-term disability insurance benefits provided by companies such as Aetna, Unum and The Standard along with government funded assistance from Social Security Disability.
Have you recently been diagnosed with cancer and it has prevented you from working?
Or have you already applied for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits because of a cancer related illness and been denied? The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers certain physical illnesses serious enough to warrant federal disability payments. However, the SSA is quite challenging to deal with, and the agency often makes it difficult for Texas residents with legitimate illnesses to be approved for benefits. In particular, many Texas residents who have been diagnosed with cancer may need assistance applying for and obtaining SSD benefits. At the Law Offices of Bemis, Roach & Reed, we know how important federal benefits can be when you have been diagnosed with cancer and are unable to work. Our team of Austin disability lawyers can discuss your case with you today. A Texas disability lawyer can assist clients across the state of Texas when they are seeking benefits because of a physical disability connected to a cancer diagnosis. Our Texas disability attorneys are all AV rated attorneys, and we regularly handle cancer SSD cases in cities throughout the state. Those pursuing benefits with experienced counsel stand a much better chase of winning benefits than those without. Contact us today for a free consultation.
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 are 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.
Author: Attorney Lloyd Bemis has been practicing law for over 35 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Bemis obtained dual board certifications from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lloyd is admitted to practice in the United States District Court - all Texas Districts and has argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Mr. Bemis is a member of the Travis County Bar Association. He has been active in the American Association for Justice and is a past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Bemis and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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