Melanoma and Social Security Disability

Skin cancer is by far the most common form of cancer, affecting more people in the last 30 years than all over cancers combined, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and causes the most deaths.

With cancer treatments costing tens of thousands of dollars, you may worry how you could possibly afford to pay for them, in addition to your daily living costs, when you can’t work any longer.

If you have been diagnosed with melanoma, the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two types of disability assistance programs that you may be eligible for.

Melanoma – Conditions and Symptoms

The main risk factors of melanoma are exposure to ultraviolet rays from both the sun and tanning beds. The tumors start on the bottom layer of the skin, which is why melanomas often look like moles. They are most commonly black or brown, but can also be skin-colored, pink, red, blue, or white. Melanomas are generally larger, oddly shaped, and more than one color than a normal mole, and change over time.

melanoma and Social Security benefits

There are four different types of melanoma.

  • Superficial Spreading: The most common type, representing roughly 70% of all cases. It spreads mostly on the surface or top layer of skin and only goes deeper in its advanced stages. Is most commonly found on the legs, neck, back, and torso.
  • Lentigo Maligna: Appears in areas of skin that get a lot of sun exposure (e.g. Head, Neck, Arms). Occurs most often in the elderly.
  • Acral Lentiginous: Usually grows black or brown underneath fingernails, palms, or bottoms of feet. Is most common type of melanoma in darker skinned people.
  • Nodular melanomas: Typically the most aggressive type, and first appears a discolored bump.

Melanoma is broken up into four stages.

  • Stage 0: Tumors have not grown above the skin’s surface
  • Stage I: Tumors are small (1 mm thick), only in the skin and have a very slow growth rate.
  • Stage II: Tumors are still only in the skin, but their larger size and faster growth rate make them Stage II
  • Stages III/IV: Tumors have progressively spread to other parts of the body

In many cases, treatment starts with a simple procedure to remove the melanoma, although the more advanced the cancer the more invasive the surgery is. Catching the disease as early as possible will ensure the best prognosis.

Filing for Social Security Disability with Melanoma

There are two types of SSD with separate financial requirements. Social Security Disability Insurance is given to those who have worked and paid Social Security taxes for at least five of the last ten years. Supplementary Security Income is awarded based on your total countable income each month. An individual can’t make more than $733 and a couple can’t make more than $1,100 per month.

The SSA also has medical requirements for each recognized condition in the Blue Book. Your melanoma can be either sarcoma or carcinoma with spreading to other regions of skin.

You could also be approved if your melanoma comes back after surgical removal or has spread to adjacent skin or farther.

If your condition does not meet these requirements, you could still be approved on a medical-vocational allowance. You need to prove that you can’t work gainful employment ($1,130 per month in 2016) in any type of job based on your education, age, and skills.

It’s important to include as much medical and non-medical evidence as possible. The SSA takes many factors into consideration. Therefore, the more evidence you provide, the greater your chance of approval. Make sure to include all lap reports, test results, treatment and hospitalization summaries, and detailed statements from doctors, coworkers, bosses, friends, and family members. Even if your melanoma qualifies under the Blue Book, your claim will be much stronger if you include your daily living and workplace limitations.

Melanoma and Your Social Security Disability Case

Even if you meet the medical requirements and/or can’t work because of your disability, you could still be denied, especially at the initial claim. About 70 percent of applicants are denied at the initial application, many simply because they don’t include enough evidence to support their claim. If you are denied, you can file an appeal with the SSA to review the decision. A qualified disability attorney has a deep understanding of the SSA, their rules, and the application, and can especially aid you in the appeals process. You are much more likely to get approved by a judge when you have legal representation.