Each year around the globe, cancer claims the lives of millions, and millions more will be diagnosed with the loathsome disease. But rather than focus on the often devastating effects of cancer, National Cancer Survivors Day® honors those who have beaten cancer and those who are fighting it right now!
What is National Cancer Survivors Day?
Celebrated annually on the first Sunday in June, National Cancer Survivors Day (NCSD) is not only a celebration for America’s more than 15.5 million cancer survivors and an inspiration for the recently diagnosed, but also a gathering of support for families and friends and an outreach to the community and its medical professionals. In addition, NCSD aims to draw attention to the ongoing challenges of cancer survivorship in order to promote more resources, research, and survivor-friendly legislation to improve cancer survivors’ quality of life. To mark the occasion, events are held across the United States and around the world to show that life after a cancer diagnosis can still be rewarding and fruitful.
Disability Support for Cancer Survivors and Those Diagnosed
At Disability Experts of Florida, we know that a cancer diagnosis is a life-changing experience for many patients. But, as National Cancer Survivors Day shows, a rewarding life is still possible. Of course, holding down a regular job while you’re in pain or in treatment can be difficult, and you may be eligible to receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). That’s where we come in. But first, a look at how the SSA views cancer conditions and eligibility.
How the SSA Views Cancer Conditions
The SSA will look at your cancer condition to determine if it prevents you from participating in any substantial gainful activity and if it is expected to last for at least a year, or result in death. Generally, the SSA will compare your condition to their Compassionate Allowances List (CAL), Blue Book, or qualify you through a medical-vocational allowance or by reviewing your cancer treatment situation.
- Qualification through the Compassionate Allowances List
The CAL automatically qualifies applicants for benefits with expedited approval. The conditions on that list are mostly life-threatening, such in the following scenarios:
- The cancer has distant metastasis, meaning it has spread out from the original location to other parts of the body
- Treatment has been unsuccessful, known as “unresectable cancer”
- Tumors are inoperable or recurrent.
- Qualification through the Blue Book
The Blue Book maintains another list of conditions that automatically qualify you for benefits. This book contains many different types of cancer listed, such as leukemia, skin cancer, and breast cancer. Conditions listed in the Blue Book, however, do not qualify for expedited processing of your disability claim. In addition, the cancer has to be either recurrent, has metastasized, or is untreatable/inoperable for you to automatically qualify for benefits.
- Qualification Through a Medical-Vocational Allowance
If you have a cancerous condition that is not listed in the CAL or Blue Book, you may still qualify for benefits under the Medical-Vocational Allowance. In this area, the SSA considers your age, work history, education, and your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC), an assessment of how your mental and physical abilities are affected by your impairment. If the symptoms of your cancer or side effects of your treatment significantly impact your ability to work or perform residual functions, you will be able to qualify for disability benefits under the vocational allowance.
- Qualification Due to Cancer Treatment
In some cases, your cancer treatment could be causing your inability to work even more than the symptoms of the cancer itself. Treatment methods such as chemotherapy and radiation can lead to significant side effects that can interfere with normal activities. Side effects can include nausea, fatigue, weakness, diarrhea, and vomiting. In some cases, mental ailments can also occur. In order to prove that these side effects are preventing you from working, you must be able to show that the condition has been persistent and can prevent you from working for at least one full year. Therefore, keeping records of these side effects and how they affect your normal activities is important when filing for benefits.
In some cases, you may beat your cancer, but suffer from long-term side effects from cancer treatment. Chemo and radiation have been known to cause conditions such as heart and liver problems, lung disease, bone weakness and even eye problems. If you’re a cancer survivor with a long-term condition caused by cancer treatment, the SSA will review this condition on its own, independent of the cancer.
We hope you will join us in celebrating National Cancer Survivors Day® on the first Sunday in June. To locate an event near you, contact your local cancer treatment center, hospital, or American Cancer Society office and be sure to follow and show your support on Twitter using @SurvivorsDay. And, if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer or are a survivor suffering from the long-term effects of treatment, Disability Experts of Florida is available to help you navigate through the SSA’s disability approval processes. Contact one of our caring advocates today to discuss your situation.