Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be a daunting task for anyone, but it can be especially challenging for individuals living with cancer. Cancer is a serious illness that can significantly impact a person's ability to work and earn a living. This makes SSDI an important safety net for many.
General Criteria for Receiving SSDI Benefits
In order to receive SSDI benefits, you must meet two key criteria:
- Have a qualifying disability that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death
- Have earned enough work credits through your employment history
A qualifying disability is defined as any physical or mental impairment which limits your ability to perform substantial gainful activity. The medical condition must be documented by objective medical such as medical records, lab results, prescriptions, and treatment notes provided by health care providers.
You will typically need 40 work credits throughout your lifetime—up to four credits per year—to be eligible for SSDI benefits. However, younger workers may be able to qualify with fewer work credits.
If you'd like to learn more about the general criteria for an SSDI claim, we offer an in-depth look at how applications are evaluated in Your Guide to a Successful Social Security Disability Claim: What Claimants, Their Family Members, and Healthcare Providers Need to Know.
Not All Cancer Patients Will Qualify for SSDI
Although cancer is undoubtedly a serious illness, a cancer diagnosis won't automatically qualify for SSDI. If you respond well to treatments and your cancer is caught in the early stages, the SSA will not find you disabled. Typically, your cancer must meet at least one of the following criteria before your application is approved:
- Recurring after chemo or radiation
- Metastasized to other places
- Considered inoperable or unresectable with surgery
The Blue Book listing 13.00 Cancer-Adult outlines what the SSA considers when evaluating SSDI applications from cancer patients. It's important to work closely with your oncologist and other medical providers to ensure that all of the necessary information is included in your claim.
If your initial application for SSDI is denied and you believe you meet the program criteria, don't give up. The SSA denies the majority of applications in the initial stages, but benefits are often granted upon appeal.
In 2020, approximately 12% of all approved SSDI applications were for leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and various other types of cancer. This makes cancer the second most common reason for receiving SSDI benefits.
The Three-Year Rule for SSDI Benefits Related to Cancer Treatment
The three-year rule is used to evaluate cancer-related applications for SSDI benefits. If your cancer has been successfully treated with no evidence of recurrence for three or more years, it no longer meets impairment listing requirements. However, this rule also means that you will be considered disabled for three years even if your cancer goes into remission before this point.
Receiving SSDI for Disabling Conditions That Are the Result of Successful Cancer Treatment
Cancer treatment often comes with serious side effects. Some possible disabling conditions that can result from successful cancer treatment include nerve damage, cognitive decline, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and a weakened immune system.
When you have a disabling condition that is the result of your successful cancer treatment, the SSA will evaluate this new disability without considering the cancer diagnosis. The Blue Book criteria for your condition will be used to determine if the effects of your cancer treatment are severe enough to make you eligible for SSDI benefits.
Do You Want to Speak to a Skilled SSDI Attorney About Receiving Disability Benefits for Cancer?
At Phillip M. Hendry Law, we understand the unique complexities of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims related to cancer treatment and how they are evaluated under the Blue Book criteria. Our firm will work with you through every step of the process to draft a compelling argument for why you should be awarded SSDI benefits.
Complete our online contact form or call (318) 553-5900 to schedule a consultation with our experienced Social Security disability attorney. We serve clients across Louisiana, East Texas, and Southwest Arkansas. For your convenience, we offer video conferencing options that let you seek assistance from the comfort of your own home.