Blogger's note: I an pleased to accept Bryan Mac Murray's article which answers so many questions that women battling breast cancer ask me. Bryan, thank you for being a guest blogger.
Disability benefits are only “automatically” available for breast cancer under certain circumstances. The cancer must be advanced, recurrent, or resistant to treatment. In all other cases, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will need to see additional proof in order to find you disabled by your cancer and/or cancer treatments.
While cancer and cancer treatments are certainly disabling, they don’t automatically meet SSA disability requirements. This is because disability benefits are only available if you have an impairment that causes long-term or permanent disability or if you have a terminal illness.
Medically Qualifying Under the Breast Cancer Listing
The SSA maintains disability listings for conditions that automatically qualify for benefits. Breast Cancer is among these and appears in the SSA’s listing of conditions called the Blue Book under Section 13.01. To meet this listing, your cancer must be one of the following:
- Advanced, inflammatory carcinoma
- A metastatic carcinoma that has spread to lymph nodes
- A carcinoma that has returned after treatment
Other types of breast cancer can also qualify under this listing by closely matching one of the situations listed above.
Compassionate Allowance for Terminal Breast Cancer
Highly aggressive forms of breast cancer and those that are advanced, recurrent, and no longer responsive to treatment fall under the SSA’s Compassionate Allowances (CAL) program. CAL-designation ensures your application is reviewed quickly and that the medical evidence required for approval is minimal.
Qualifying Without Meeting the SSA’s Disability Listing
If your breast cancer doesn’t qualify through the Blue Book, you may still be able to get approved for benefits. Just be prepared for your application to initially be denied and for your wait for benefits to be longer.
You’ll need to request a second review of your claim and reevaluation of your medical evidence, but you should also be prepared for the possibility that you’ll be denied a second time. If denied again, you can appeal the decision and have your claim reviewed by an administrative law judge.
You may wish to consider seeking assistance from a disability advocate or attorney from the start if you know you cannot meet the SSA’s disability listing for breast cancer. An advocate or attorney can help you build a strong case and can assist in arguing your claim at an appeal hearing, if one is necessary.
Applying for Benefits
Disability benefits are available through two programs SSI and SSDI. Each program requires a separate application process.
- SSDI applications can be submitted online or at the local office.
- For SSI however, you’ll need to interview with an SSA representative at the local branch. He or she will complete your SSI application for you.
No matter which program you apply for, you’ll need:
· details of your work history, education, job training, and previous job duties.
· contact information for all your doctors and other healthcare providers.
· financial information, including all sources of income and support as well as any assets you hold.
Consider taking copies of the medical records you have with you to your local SSA office or submit those copies via mail just after completing your online SSDI application. Although the SSA will have you fill out consent forms that allow them to access your medical records, you wait for a decision can be shorter if you provide medical documentation directly to them at the time you apply for benefits.