How to Apply for Disability when You have Melanoma

The Social Security Administration (SSA) only grants benefits to individuals for whom severe and lasting disability occurs. Early stage melanoma may qualify in some cases, like when curative surgery creates lasting impairments, for example. Late stage melanoma clearly meets the SSA’s automatic eligibility rules, though you must still fill out the full application and back up your claim with appropriate evidence before you can begin receiving benefits.

Knowing if You Qualify Based on Work Restrictions

With an application filed for advanced melanoma, proving you’re unable to work isn’t difficult, because the SSA understands the affects of advanced illness and required treatments. When diagnosed early and addressed through surgical interventions, it’s unlikely to be a quick and straightforward disability review, because the SSA must take a closer look at your lasting limitations or impairments before making a decision.

Curative surgical procedures can lead to severe impairments, which in turn may prevent you from performing everyday tasks, including essential job functions. When your residual functional capacity (RFC) is severely compromised, you can qualify for benefit even though you don’t automatically meet eligibility requirements.

melanoma and Social Security benefits

A loss of vision, for example, can prevent a return to almost any job. A loss of a limb due to amputation may stop you from working in your usual field. If, for instance, you’ve traditionally held production, manufacturing, or similarly physical jobs and don’t have the education or skills necessary to find other employment, the SSA can approve you for disability but only after a review of your RFC.

Understanding Medical Evidence Requirements

Medical records are centrally important to your disability claim. You’ll need physical exam notes from when your doctor first identified suspicious lesions. Pathology reports from a punch biopsy or other procedure document the diagnosis, and if your cancer has spread to lymph nodes or internal organs, imaging scans can show the number and location of metastatic tumors. All of these records paint a picture of disability and allow the SSA to review your application against standard disability listings.
If you meet a listing or closely match one, the SSA will approve you for benefits.

The melanoma listing appears in 13.29 of the SSA’s Blue Book, but it only covers the most severe and advanced forms of the disease, like ocular and metastatic melanoma. Melanomas cured through aggressive surgeries may qualify under another disability listing instead. For instance, if you’ve lost vision, hearing, or the ability to communicate effectively after curative surgeries, then the SSA may review and approve your claim under a listing in its Blue Book section on Senses and Speech.

Gathering Appropriate Records and Getting Help with Your Claim

Records necessary for completing the application include not just medical evidence, but the contact details of former employers and your healthcare providers. Bank statements, tax returns, and pay stubs can help you fill out financial inquiry sections of the application. Gather as much as you can before starting the application. This will make the process run more smoothly and will prevent contradictions or missing details in the information you provide in your application.

The SSA requires quick responses to requests for additional information, so you’ll want to let your doctor know in advance that you intend to submit a disability application. You may want to consult an attorney or advocate too, since he or she can assist throughout the application process and potentially increase your chances of getting approved, especially if you don’t meet the melanoma disability listing.

Additional Resources