Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is a form of cancer that affects the lymph system and which can occur in adults or children. Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma causes a range of symptoms, the combination of which can be debilitating. The treatments required for the condition make it especially difficult to maintain gainful employment when suffering from this disease. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma as a potentially disabling condition that may qualify you for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.
Is Lymphoma a Disability?
Yes, lymphoma is a disability according to the SSA. One of the types of lymphoma is called Hodgkin lymphoma, which is cancer of the lymphatic system which covers the lymph glands present throughout the body.
There are two types of Hodgkin lymphoma are classical Hodgkin lymphoma which accounts for around 95% of cases and nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma. The first type is rare and was only diagnosed in 700 people in 2022. The symptoms expected could include the following:
- unexplained weight loss;
- unexplained tiredness;
- unexplained cough;
- shortness of breath;
- painless swelling in the armpit, neck, or groin;
- excessive sweating, particularly at night.
There are some factors that could increase the risk of getting Hodgkin lymphoma include which are:
- exposure to viruses like Epstein-Barr virus or HIV;
- family history;
- a weakened immune system;
Diagnosing Hodgkin lymphoma
Your doctor may carry out a physical examination and feel the lymph nodes in your underarm, neck and groin for the presence of a swelling. If there is any swelling some tissue from the enlarged lymph node will be removed for examination under a microscope. There are two kinds of biopsy which are:
- excision biopsy which removes part or the whole lymph node under a general anesthetic;
- core needle biopsy which uses a needle to remove some cells and tissue from the lymph node.
Other tests that may be carried out could be any of the following:
- chest x-ray;
- imaging tests like CT, PET and MRI scans or an ultrasound;
- bone marrow biopsy;
- blood tests.
Symptoms and Treatments of Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is characterized by:
- swelling – usually painless – in the lymph nodes
- weight loss
- night sweats
- skin rashes
- bone, abdomen and/or chest pain.
The treatment of the disease is often even more debilitating than the symptoms of the condition. Many who suffer from Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, even if able to work despite the symptoms of the disease, must cease work during the course of their treatments. Treatments for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma include:
- radiation therapy
- surgical removal of lymph nodes and vessels
- biological therapies, like the use of medications like interferon
The type of treatment used depends on the extent and stage or grade of the disease. In many instances, combined therapies are used to treat Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in adults. For example, radiation and chemotherapy may be used in combination, and surgical removal tumors and/or lymph nodes and vessels may also be required.
Is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma a Disability?
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is eligible for disability benefits because this type of cancer requires treatments which can be very debilitating and make it impossible for someone to work while being treated.
Often the treatment for this type of cancer involves multiple rounds of chemotherapy and it can involve bone marrow transplants as well.
Because of the seriousness of this diagnosis the condition not only qualifies for disability benefits it also qualified for the Social Security Administration’s Compassionate Allowance Program.
What is the Compassionate Allowance Program?
The Compassionate Allowance Program was set up to help expedite the process of getting approved for benefits so that people who are very sick or terminally ill can start to get their benefits faster than usual.
The usual time to get a claim approved for disability benefits and to start receiving those benefits is several months.
But some people have illnesses that are so serious that they can’t wait months for their benefits to start. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is one of those conditions.
In order to qualify for the Compassionate Allowance program your illness must be very serious, advanced, or terminal.
You will still need to submit medical documentation proving your claim when you submit a claim for disability benefits even if you have Compassionate Allowance status. There are more than 50 conditions that qualify for the Compassionate Allowance program.
When you submit your claim and your medical documentation the SSA’s system will automatically flag claims for certain diseases.
If you have a disease like Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that qualifies for the Compassionate Allowance program your claim will automatically be flagged by the SSA’s computer system and your claim will automatically be entered in the Compassionate Allowance queue. You don’t need to do anything special to get the Compassionate Allowance.
If your claim is approved the benefits will start immediately and often you will receive your money in just weeks instead of waiting months.
When you’re struggling with a serious or terminal illness getting benefit money as quickly as possible can be a big help in giving you some peace of mind as you focus on fighting the illness or spending as much time as possible with loved ones.
How a Social Security Attorney Can Help You With Your Case
Working with a Social Security attorney can help you get your claim approved faster so that you can receive your money faster.
An attorney that has years of experience working on disability cases knows how to avoid the mistakes that people often make which slow down the approval process.
An attorney that knows the disability system can help you figure out what medical documentation you need, what forms need to be filled out, how to compile medical evidence and what medical evidence is required to prove that you need disability benefits.
Applying for SSD with Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma has a dedicated listing in the SSA’s Blue Book, which is the manual of commonly disabling medical conditions which also includes the medical evidence requirements for qualifying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits with each listed condition. Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is additionally approved for expedited processing under the SSA’s Compassionate Allowances (CAL) program, which is designed to address critical applications for disability benefits as quickly as possible.
While CAL designation puts your application in the cue for receive ahead of many others, it doesn’t mean you automatically qualify for benefits. You must still complete the full application process, and the SSA must still review your claim under the standard listing and eligibility guidelines.
The applicable section of the Blue Book for your Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma disability claim is Section 13.05. To meet this listing, your claim must show your lymphoma:
- has remained or has come back even after treatment with any form of cancer therapy
- requires more than one round of cancer therapy within a consecutive 12-month period.
Additionally, if your lymphoma requires a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, you will automatically qualify for SSD benefits for a period of one year following the transplant.
While most lymphoma applications qualify for SSD benefits under the listing in Section 13.05, not all do. If you do not meet the listing requirements, you can still potentially receive disability benefits.
The SSA will evaluate your residual functional capacity to see if your symptoms and the side effects of required treatments so severely impact your functional abilities that you are unable to maintain gainful employment. If your functional capacity rating shows you are severely limited, and you are unable to perform normal, everyday operations, including typical job functions, you may qualify for benefits under what is known as a medical vocational allowance.
Getting Help with your Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Disability Claim
When you are applying for SSDI, it can be beneficial to work with an attorney. Having assistance from a Social Security Disability advocate or attorney in filing your disability application and in understanding the application and review processes can be beneficial even if your medical evidence meets the listing in Section 13.05 of the SSA’s Blue Book. It can be even more helpful if your application does not meet the listing. Either way, you may wish to consider getting help with your application and/or with any reconsiderations or appeals if you’re found ineligible for benefits.