Social Security Disability Benefits for Pancreatic Cancer

If you have been diagnosed with a life altering illness such as pancreatic cancer, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. Feeling too ill to work full-time can create financial problems. Expensive treatments and a lack of income can make life incredibly stressful. The good news is that the Social Security Administration has two disability programs aimed at providing financial relief to those struggling with an illness that is expected to last at least a year or end in their death, such as pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic Cancer Explained

As its name suggests, pancreatic cancer forms in your pancreas, which is responsible for proper food absorption and controlling blood sugar. There is no single pinpointed cause, but risk factors include age, smoking, obesity, and genetics. Because you rarely display noticeable symptoms until the disease has progressed, pancreatic cancer is often referred to as a silent killer, and 95% of those diagnosed with the condition will not live longer than five years afterwards.

When they do manifest, symptoms include:

  • Upper abdominal pain

  • Back pain

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss

  • Jaundice and dark urine

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Blood clots

Because the mortality rate for those with pancreatic cancer is so high, the SSA considers all applicants who have the condition to be automatically disabled. There are two types of the disease, one of which is also regarded as a Compassionate Allowance condition, meaning that your application will be processed more quickly and, if approved, your benefits will start arriving in a matter of weeks.

Social Security Disability Benefits for Pancreatic Cancer

Qualifying for Disability Benefits

When you apply for disability benefits, the SSA confirms your medical eligibility by referring to the Blue Book, which is its official catalog of disabling impairments. Pancreatic cancer appears under Listing 13.20 Pancreas and requires that your diagnosis meet one of the following criteria:

  • Carcinoma of the exocrine cells. Most cases of pancreatic cancer are in this category.

  • Islet cell carcinoma that is inoperable or cannot be removed surgically. These tumors affect the cells that produce insulin.

If your pancreatic cancer does go into remission, the SSA will consider you to be disabled for at least three years afterwards. Then you will be assessed for any lingering functional limitations. If any are found, your disability benefits will be extended.

The Application Process

When you apply for SSA disability benefits, the application must be accompanied by medical records that confirm your diagnosis, indicate your prognosis, and describe all treatment plans. For pancreatic cancer, this would include:

  • Surgical notes

  • Biopsy and bloodwork results

  • Results from imaging tests like CT scans and ultrasounds

  • Treatment plans such as surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or laparoscopy

An estimated 70% of all disability claims are rejected the first time, including those for Compassionate Allowance conditions. To minimize the risk of being denied the financial support you need, engage the support of a Social Security Disability attorney or advocate who can help you fill in the application form correctly and collect all necessary medical documentation. If your claim is turned down, an advocate or attorney can represent you at appeal and improve your chances of a successful application. With so much at stake, the effort you make to obtain professional support with your claim can turn out to be well worth it.

Additional Resources