How to Apply for Disability When You Have Cancer

Disability benefits are a financial lifeline for individuals with cancer and their families. Benefits, which are paid monthly, can cover regular bills, medical expenses, and everyday living costs. Although some cancers are highly treatable, even treatments can stop you from working for months and sometimes permanently. When this is the case, Social Security disability may be available to you.

Determining if You Might Qualify for Benefits

Many advanced and treatment resistant forms of cancer automatically medically qualify for benefits. Even early stage cancers may meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) disability program requirements though, if they prevent employment.

If your cancer or required treatments make you fatigued, weak, or unable to think clearly, then you may not even be able to work in a sedentary job, let alone a physically taxing one. In cases like this, cancer can be a qualifying disability, even if it is responsive to treatment, eventually goes into remission, or may allow you to return to the workforce one day.

How To Apply for Disability With Cancer

Ensuring Your Medical Evidence Meets Requirements

Disability program eligibility hinges on having the right medical evidence to satisfy SSA standards of proof. Certain pieces of evidence are the same, no matter what form cancer takes. Typically, the SSA must see:

  • biopsy results or a pathology report,
  • blood test or other lab results,
  • x-rays, CTs, or other imaging scans,
  • and treatment type, schedule, and results, including any side effects you experience.

It is also important to understand that the SSA maintains standard disability listings in its Blue Book manual. Disability Determination Services (DDS) staff use these listings when deciding eligibility for benefits. Ask your doctor to review the appropriate listing for the form of cancer you have.

He or she can ensure your medical records meet the SSA’s burden of proof requirements.

Preparing for Your Benefit Application

A disability application requires more than just medical evidence. In fact, the SSA must review information about your education, job training, and employment history as well as your financial circumstances.

  • Tax returns from previous years and bank account statements can help you provide accurate financial data on your application for benefits. You’ll also need information on any other forms of benefits or assistance you receive, including any financial help you get from friends, family, or social service organizations.
  • The names and contact details of former employers and educational institutions you attended will be necessary too, as will information of your former job duties and skills. Old pay stubs, job descriptions, and other employment, training, and education records can help you gather and communicate these essential application details.
  • Contact information for all of your doctors and other healthcare providers, including hospitals and labs, will be required. Billing statements and copies of medical records will give you the information you need for completing your application, including the dates of service, formal diagnoses, and other crucial details.

Whether you’re applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or both of these SSA disability programs, you may wish to speak with an attorney or advocate prior to starting your application.

A disability advocate or attorney is familiar with the SSA’s evidence requirements, eligibility standards, and application processes, and can advise you throughout the application and review processes.