Millions of people are diagnosed with cancer each year. It isn't a diagnosis that anyone wants to face. While some cases of cancer are easily treated, others are more invasive and take a significant toll on the individual suffering from it. The symptoms of the condition and the side effects of treatment often leave an individual unable to work. With a lack of income, there is no way to pay for the necessary medical treatment. In some cases, Social Security Disability benefits can offset the financial hardships caused by cancer and can provide some cancer patients with much-needed medical insurance. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer and you are interested in applying for Social Security Disability benefits, the following information can help you understand how the Social Security Administration (SSA) treats disability claims based on a cancer diagnosis.
Cancer - Condition and Symptoms
Cancer is a diagnosis given when there is uncontrolled abnormal cell growth in the body that results in damage to the genetic material inside the body's cells. Not all cancer cases are the same. In fact, there are more than one hundred different kinds of cancer that can affect the human body. Some cancers result in tumors, while others do not. Some forms of cancer are life threatening, while others may be treated rather easily.
Cancer usually starts in one area of the body and then spreads to other areas if not caught early. Once the cancer spreads, the condition becomes more difficult to treat. There are six major types of cancer including leukemia, carcinomas, lymphoma, myeloma, sarcoma and cancer of the central nervous system. Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the body's blood forming tissue, carcinomas are cancers of the skin or organ tissue linings, lymphoma and myeloma cancers affect the body's immune system, sarcoma affects the body's supportive tissues and cancer of the central nervous system is cancer that affects the spinal cord or the brain.
When diagnosing a cancerous condition, a doctor will perform a variety of tests. The exact tests that are performed will depend on the type of cancer a patient is suffering from. Common tests used to diagnose cancer cases include blood tests, blood counts, biopsies, spinal taps, ultrasounds, x-rays, CAT scans, MRIs and surgical diagnostic tests. It is not uncommon for a doctor to perform the same test more than once to track changes in the affected areas.
The symptoms of cancer will vary from patient to patient. Again, because there are so many different types of cancer, the exact symptoms experienced will depend on the type of cancer that a person is suffering from. Common symptoms of cancer include fatigue, weakness, changes in the urine, skin changes, swollen lymph nodes, abnormal lumps and other changes in the body. It cannot be stressed enough that the exact symptoms will vary from case to case and some cancer patients will not experience any symptoms at all until the cancer has progressed.
Filing for Social Security Disability with Cancer
A diagnosis of cancer is not enough, in and of itself, to qualify an individual for Social Security Disability benefits. In order to qualify for benefits, your condition must be severe enough that it prevents you from performing any type of gainful work activity and it must be expected to last at least a year. Because of this, patients who suffer from less serious forms of cancer may not qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.
When you apply for disability benefits with the SSA, the individual who reviews your claim will refer to its Blue Book of listed impairments. Cancer is included in this listing under Section 13.00. If you can prove that you case of cancer is severe enough that it prevents you from working and your condition meets the guidelines set forth by the SSA, you should have no problem qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits. If, however, you do not have enough documentation to satisfy the SSA's requirements, you may need to undergo the disability appeal process in order to obtain the benefits you need.
Cancer and Your Social Security Disability Case
If you have been diagnosed with cancer and are applying for Social Security Disability benefits, gather as much medical documentation as possible when submitting your claim to the SSA. If you can provide enough objective evidence proving the severity of your condition, you may be approved for benefits during the initial stage of the Social Security Disability application process. If, however, your application is one of the 70 percent that are denied at the initial application stage, you will need to file an appeal with the SSA within 60 days of receiving the notice of determination. The good news is that nearly two-thirds of appeals are won at the hearing stage of the appeal process.
If you need to go through the Social Security Disability application process due a diagnosis of cancer, you should consider retaining the services of a qualified disability attorney. It is important to understand that legal representation will greatly increase your chances of receiving a favorable decision on your disability claim.