Did you know that cancer could qualify for Social Security disability benefits if you are unable to work for 12 months or more? If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer, you might be eligible for monthly resources from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Disability benefits can be spent on all of your medical needs, transportation costs, childcare, and any other daily expenses.
Medical Qualifications Via the Blue Book
The SSA uses its own medical guide known as the Blue Book to evaluate disability applicants and deem benefits to those who are too ill to work. The SSA considers “working” as earning more than $1,170 per month in 2017.
Section 13.00 of the Blue Book is dedicated to cancer. The Blue Book has separate listings for every form of cancer. Some aggressive forms of cancer like esophageal or liver cancer will qualify with only a diagnosis. Highly treatable cancers like prostate cancer will need to have returned despite 3 months’ treatment or spread to internal organs to qualify.
Because the entire Blue Book is available online, you can review Section 13.00 with your oncologist to determine if you qualify.
Qualifying Via a Medical Vocational Allowance
Unfortunately, thousands of people diagnosed with cancer will not meet a Blue Book listing. This does not mean you shouldn’t apply! The SSA will accept applicants who do not meet a Blue Book listing for cancer through what’s known as a Medical Vocational Allowance, so long as you can prove that you are unable to do any work for 12+ months that you’re qualified for.
This means that if you’re going through chemotherapy, radiation, surgeries, or any other treatments for one year, you’ll have a good chance of qualifying if your treatment symptoms or side effects make it impossible to keep your current job, or get another job that’s suitable for your skillset and earns $1,170 per month. If you’ve only worked physically demanding jobs throughout life, you’ll have a much easier time qualifying compared to someone who’s worked sedentary jobs. The SSA may believe that low-impact careers are easier to maintain while going through chemotherapy. Cancer treatment impacts everyone differently of course, so don’t give up hope if you work at a desk.
A Medical Vocational Allowance relies heavily on results from your RFC, or “Residual Functional Capacity.” Your RFC is the physical activity you’re able to perform at a place of employment, such as standing or sitting for extended periods of time, lifting weight, walking, and more. You can download an RFC evaluation on the SSA’s website for your oncologist or primary care physician to fill out on your behalf.
Starting Your Application
Most people with cancer can complete the application for Social Security disability benefits online on the SSA’s website. This is a great way to apply because you will not need to physically submit any paperwork or test results, but simply list the hospitals where you’ve received treatment. The SSA will gather your medical records on your behalf.
If you’d prefer, you can always apply online at your closest Social Security office. There are over 1,300 offices nationwide. To get started at an SSA office, you should make an appointment by calling the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213.
Most claims will be approved within five months, but some people with advanced or aggressive cancer could be approved in as little as 10 days. Once your benefits start, you can focus on your health and treatments.