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What You Need to Know About Disability Based On Cancer

By | 2020-05-21T00:47:11+00:00 May 17th, 2020|General|0 Comments

1.     Should I Apply for Disability if I Have Cancer?

As treatment modalities have evolved, however, some cancers have become treatable. Patients have a few very intense months of treatment, and then become functional again. Such a patient would not be eligible for disability. If the prognosis is uncertain, we usually recommend  making an application for benefits – one can always withdraw the application. The wait for decisions is so lengthy that it is not advisable to begin the process a year into a treatment that did not go as planned. 

2.     What About Compassionate Allowances for Disability Based on Cancer?

Social Security has a relatively new program called “compassionate allowances.” This is meant to fast-track claims for people with certain diagnoses, including cancers. Generally, if a cancer is inoperable and not likely to respond to chemotherapy, radiation or other treatments, the compassionate allowance claim will be granted. A list of compassionate allowance conditions can be seen on Social Security’s website at

Currently, about 50 types of cancer are on the list of compassionate allowance conditions. For many of the cancers on the compassionate allowance list, all that’s required to qualify is a simple diagnosis to get an expedited approval of your disability benefits. For most of the cancers on the compassionate allowance list, however, the cancer has to have progressed in some way for the claimant to be eligible for the program.

3.     How Long After My Cancer Diagnosis Should I Wait to Apply?

There is a delicate balance in the decision to apply for disability with a cancer diagnosis. Often people want to see themselves in the stream of recovery, and declaring themselves disabled can seem like giving up hope. However, the gain of a monthly benefit payment and medical benefits should not be disregarded. Consider that these federal insurance programs may help pay for treatment, and reduce overall stress.  Often people are months into a cancer diagnosis before they think of seeking assistance from Social Security. The course of chemotherapy and radiation is cumulative, unpredictable and often debilitating in itself. Depression is a common side effect and should be documented. We recommend that clients with a cancer diagnosis begin the disability process as soon as they are no longer reporting to work on a daily basis.

4.     What Documentation Do I Need if My Disability is Based on Cancer?

Importantly, when it comes to a diagnosis of cancer, you need medical record, like those from an oncologist.  Clinical records alone do not paint the whole picture. A patient diary is useful. Observations from family and friends, submitted in the form of an affidavit, can also very helpful to establish ongoing weakness, nausea and fatigue. The combined information is needed to show the true effect of the disease and treatment on the capacity to work. Please have your clients consult with us if they are in need of their Social Security disability insurance and Medicaid or Medicare benefits to help fight this disease. 

5.     What Are SSA’s Disability Based on Cancer Regulations?

Social Security does infrequent reviews of the regulations that determine disability. This is a lengthy process, involving specialized physicians and public health experts, and a long public comment period. In October 2009, this protocol was completed for the disability regulations for cancer. At that time, it was decided that the then existing regulations met the needs of the agency and the public.  On July 20, 2015, however, Social Security finally revised its Medical Criteria for Evaluating Cancer (Malignant Neoplastic Diseases).  The “new” 2015 listing is published in the Code of Federal Regulations at at 20 C.F.R 404.

If you have questions about Disability Based on Cancer, call at 855-GO-DISABILITY (855-463-4722).  We will help you get your questions answered.

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