Can Cancer Qualify You for Disability Benefits?

Published on: October 13, 2016

Here’s a question that we hear a lot at the Disability Experts of Florida office: “Can I qualify for disability benefits because of cancer?”

The short answer is “Yes, you can qualify for disability because of cancer.” However, just because cancer can qualify you for disability benefits doesn’t mean you will qualify if you have cancer.

Cancer can be a terrifying condition to live with, and it can be disabling. But, applying for disability benefits for cancer can be tricky.Like with many other medical conditions, there are certain conditions that your cancer must meet before it can be used to qualify you for disability.

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The Cancer Must Prevent You from Being Able to Work for a Long Time

A basic requirement of applying for disability is that the disabling condition must prevent you from engaging in, as the Social Security Administration (SSA) states, “any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”

If you are:

  • currently working;
  • still able to do the same work you were once able to; or
  • expected to recover with proper treatment within 12 months of losing your ability to work;

then the SSA will judge that the cancer is not a disabling condition under their guidelines.

Your Condition Must Pass an Evaluation by the SSA

When you submit your condition to the SSA for approval, they will conduct an evaluation of your condition. The SSA will determine your eligibility based on:

  • Your cancer’s origin
  • Extent of involvement when first demonstrated
  • Duration, frequency, and response to cancer treatments
  • Post-therapeutic residual effects (side effects from chemotherapy and other treatments)
  • Documentation of cancer (treatment notes, operative notes, biopsy, pathology report, etc.)

Having the above information helps the SSA determine if your cancer is sufficiently debilitating to qualify for SSI or SSDI (Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Income).

What to Do if the SSA Rejects Your Claim

In many cases, a cancer disability claim may be rejected. This could be because the SSA didn’t find the cancer to be sufficiently debilitating, or on the basis that treatment should be able to return you to work in less than a year.

However, you shouldn’t give up because of a single rejection. The thing about cancer is that it can be very hard to predict just how the cancer (and the patient) will respond to treatment.

Sometimes, cancer will respond well to treatment and the patient can resume his/her normal life quickly. Other times, the patient may face many months of recovery to overcome the effects of the treatments used to remove their cancer—or even go into remission.

If you get rejected, it may be worthwhile to file an appeal as soon as possible. This allows you to retain your original disability claim filing date (enabling you to collect back pay based on that date), and gives you more time to prove your case to the SSA. In the meantime, you can continue to collect more evidence to show the SSA.

Cancer can be absolutely terrible to deal with—you shouldn’t have to stress about making ends meet when you should be focused on recovering. If you need help with filing a disability claim based on your cancer in Florida, the non-attorney advocates of Disability Experts of Florida are here to give you a helping hand.


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