As a young breast cancer patient, I found that I could not do many of the things I had done before cancer. At the age of 31, the chemotherapy treatments and bilateral mastectomy created a major challenge.
With bills piling up and not working, I hoped to apply for social security benefits. I was not sure if there was a way to get disability benefits for breast cancer patients.
After searching, I found out I could apply for disability online.
Unfortunately, I learned that I was not able to get social security benefits for breast cancer based on my individual situation.
Fortunately, there are some ways to claim disability for breast cancer. This blog post shows how to get social security disability benefits for breast cancer.
In order to determine if your breast cancer qualifies for disability benefits, there are five ways that breast cancer patients can qualify for social security disability benefits. In addition, you can find out how to appeal a denial for social security disability.
The following is a guest post by Lauren DiCenso.
Table of Contents
Qualifying for Social Security Benefits with Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant cancer cells form in the tissues of the breast. It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer for women, with over 200,000 women being diagnosed per year.
Although you will be facing some tough challenges, if you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, there may be resources available for your family to make things a little easier.
A diagnosis of breast cancer will almost always require surgery and/or radiation. Most breast cancer patients will also require chemotherapy.
Without insurance, the costs of these treatments can be astronomical.
Social Security Benefits for Disability
While a breast cancer diagnosis will not always “automatically” qualify, cancer is the third most-commonly approved condition for Social Security benefits.
How to Appeal Denial for Social Security Disability
However, if you apply for disability and find that your claim was denied, don’t worry!
You can file an appeal online. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will take a second look at your application. It is more likely you will be approved during this stage than the initial one.
The financial assistance you receive through disability benefits means that you can focus on you and your health!
Medically Qualifying and Filing for Disability With Breast Cancer
Is Cancer a Disability?
The Social Security Administration will use the Blue Book to determine if your breast cancer qualifies for disability benefits. Also known as the “Listing of Impairments,” the Blue Book lists various health conditions that might qualify for disability benefits.
Social Security Disability Requirements
However, you have to meet the specific criteria listed for the SSA to consider your breast cancer for disability benefits. Here are five ways to qualify for disability benefits for breast cancer patients:
- Cancer that’s “locally advanced,” meaning it’s spread to your chest or distant mammary nodes.
- Cancer that’s spread to your collarbone
- Your cancer has returned despite anticancer therapy —surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation will all qualify.
- You have small-cell breast cancer
- Cancer with secondary lymphedema requiring surgery to restore functioning to an arm—this will qualify for at least 12 months after surgery
Typically breast cancer that’s Stage III-B or beyond will qualify, but there are some exceptions. Women with earlier stages of breast cancer can still qualify if they can prove both of the following:
- Their cancer treatments (surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, etc.) will last for at least twelve months
- They will be unable to earn at least $1,170 per month in 2017 ($1,180 in 2018) due to the symptoms or side effects of treatment. The SSA considers $1,170 to be a “gainful living,” so if you’re able to work part-time during treatments or return to work within one year, you will not qualify.
The entire Blue Book is available online, so you can review the breast cancer listing with your doctor to determine if you might qualify.
Social Security Compassionate Allowances and Breast Cancer
Some conditions are so clearly disabling, the SSA will expedite the claim to ensure an applicant is approved quickly. These are “Compassionate Allowances.” The initiative began in 2008 and has now expanded to include more than 200 disabling conditions.
How to Get Social Security Disability Benefits If You Don’t Qualify for the Blue Book Listing
So, if you don’t qualify for the Blue Book listing, you can still get disability benefits another way.
You will qualify for a Compassionate Allowance if you have either IBC or metastatic breast cancer. There’s nothing additional you need to do when applying—the SSA will automatically process your claim quickly.
If your breast cancer qualifies as a Compassionate Allowance, you could be approved in as little as 10 days. Unfortunately, you still will need to wait a full five months to begin receiving your payments.
Other Ways to Get Social Security Disability for Breast Cancer
If you meet one of the following criteria, the SSA will expedite the process of your social security disability claim with the potential to receive a response within 10 days:
- If chemotherapy does not work and the cancer returns
- Your cancer is inoperable or unresectable
- If you have IBC or metastatic breast cancer
How to Get Social Security Benefits for Early Stage Cancer
The SSA will also consider applicants who have an early stage of cancer if they’re able to prove that they’re completely unable to work for at least 12 months due to cancer treatments. Applicants who have physically challenging jobs will have a much easier time qualifying at an early stage than someone who has a desk job.
You’ll also have an easier time qualifying if you’re over age 50. At that point, the SSA does not expect you to become completely re-trained for a new career that’s less physically demanding.
How to Apply for Disability
The easiest way to start is to apply for disability online from the comfort of your own home.
If you’d prefer, you can also apply in person with the help of a Social Security representative at your closest Social Security office. To make an appointment to apply in person, simply call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213.
You should hear back from the SSA regarding your claim within five months, but anyone with IBC or metastatic breast cancer should be approved within a couple of weeks.
Hopefully, you found this information helpful. If you have any questions, please leave comments or send me an email and I will try to get your questions answers about getting social security disability benefits for breast cancer.
Next: If you’re looking for post-matectomy recovery shirts, see this article on Post Mastectomy Clothing Recovery Shirts to Wear After Breast Cancer Surgery and see the collection of discounts and free stuff for breast cancer survivors.
Rachel is an Austin blogger, educator, mom, wife, young breast cancer survivor writing about health, saving money, and living a happy life in Austin, Texas.
Rachel has written for HuffPost and Hometalk and has been featured on KXAN, Studio 512, Fox 7 Austin, and CBS Austin.