For some women diagnosed with serious cases of breast cancer, working is no longer possible. The subsequent loss of income and medical insurance can wreak havoc on your finances. If you’re facing circumstances such as these, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits. These benefits can offset the cost of medical care and basic living needs.
This blog will explain the options available to individuals who have breast cancer and how to submit an application for disability benefits.
SSDI and SSI
Social Security Disability benefits are governed and distributed by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The two main benefit programs offered by the SSA include Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
SSDI is an insurance-type program that provides financial assistance to disabled workers and their eligible dependents. Eligibility for SSDI is determined by a person’s past employment and the amount of Social Security taxes they’ve paid over the course of their career. This program is best suited for older individuals who have worked and paid taxes for a significant period of time. Learn more.
SSI is a needs-based benefit program offered to disabled persons with little to no income. Unlike SSDI, SSI is not contingent upon work credits or employment history. Instead, applicants must fall within specific financial parameters set by the SSA. This program is best suited for low-income individuals of all ages. Learn more.
Medical Eligibility and the SSA’s Blue Book
If you meet the SSDI or SSI technical requirements explained above, you will then be evaluated based on specific medical requirements. These requirements can be found in the SSA’s Blue Book — or manual of qualifying disabilities.
Breast cancer is evaluated under Blue Book listing 13.10. According to this listing, the SSA requires that applicants must meet one of the following requirements:
- Applicant has a locally advanced carcinoma
- Applicant has a carcinoma with metastases to the supraclavicular or infraclavicular nodes, to 10 or more axillary nodes, or with distant metastases
- Applicant has a recurrent carcinoma — except local recurrence that goes into remission after treatment
Access this complete listing. If you don’t understand some of the medical terminology of this listing, it may be in your best interest to sit down with your doctor to discuss your qualifications.
The SSA recognizes that certain types of cancer are more severe than others. For this reason, applicants who have more advanced breast cancer or inflammatory breast cancer may qualify for Compassionate Allowance processing. The Compassionate Allowance initiative allows individuals with severely disabling conditions to receive benefits in as little as 10 days.
To see if you qualify, visit the Compassionate Allowances Conditions page and locate the listings for breast cancer and inflammatory breast cancer.
Before completing the application, you’ll need to gather supporting documents to provide evidence for your claim for disability benefits. These may include the following:
- results of physical and mental examinations
- MRI results
- laboratory test results
- diagnosis from a medical professional
- treatment history and response to treatments
You will also need to include appropriate financial records, identification, and employment documentation. To make sure you’re prepared to submit your application, visit the Adult Disability Interview Checklist page.
Applying for Benefits
After you gather all necessary documentation, you can fill out the application forms online or in person at your local Social Security office. You will also be asked to complete an “Authorization to Release Information” form so that the SSA may contact your doctors and medical professionals for further medical information.
On average, it can take 3 to 5 months to receive a decision on an initial disability application. If you meet the requirements of the Compassionate Allowance program, you will receive a decision much sooner.
If your initial claim is denied, don’t panic. You can file an appeal by sending a letter to the SSA within 60 days of receiving the initial decision. Although being denied can be frustrating and overwhelming, the appeals process is often a necessary step toward being approved. In fact, many more claimants are approved during the appeals proceedings.