Cancer Patient Wins Disability Claim

Cancer Patient Wins Disability Claim

“Cancer” is a word no one wants to hear. But if you find yourself with a cancer diagnosis and unable to work, you may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. A recent Disability Alabama client found themselves in just that situation, but their application for benefits was denied. Fortunately, after submission of thick files of medical records and a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, our client’s claim was approved.

Qualifying for a “Listing” vs. Qualifying by Residual Functional Capacity

When you apply for Social Security disability you might qualify more or less automatically if your condition meets a listing. Basically, your medical impairment must (1) be one already identified by Social Security, and(2) the current symptoms it causes must be severe. Usually, a diagnosis from your doctor will satisfy part one as most conditions will fall into one or more listing. However, claimants often have difficultly showing that the disease is currently severe enough to meet the listing requirement.

For example, if a claimant has colon cancer that does not automatically qualify them for a listing even though cancers of the large intestine are included in the listings. In fact, many people with colon cancer will not qualify for disability. However, persistent, aggressive, or inoperable colon cancers probably will qualify a claimant.

Even if a claimant doesn’t qualify under a listing, they may still qualify for disability if one or more of your medical issues make you unable to work any prior job and unable to work any other job that is common in the national economy. That means that even if your cancer alone does not qualify you for a listing, your cancer and your depression, or your cancer and your arthritis, or any other combination might qualify you for a monthly disability benefit from Social Security.

Listing for Cancers

Cancer is not one disease but many different diseases. Not surprisingly, therefore, the Social Security listings have different criteria for evaluating different cancers. For example, the requirements to qualify for a listing when you have skin cancer are different from the requirements if you have leukemia. With skin cancer, you will qualify for a listing if the cancer has metastasized beyond regional lymph nodes or if the cancer has progressed beyond the skin to the muscle, cartilage, or bone. On the other hand, whether you qualify for a listing for leukemia depends on whether it is acute or chronic. Acute leukemia automatically qualifies for 24 months from the date of diagnosis, but chronic leukemia depends on further factors.

Social Security Disability Hearings for Cancer Patients

Close to 70% of claims are initially denied. If your case is one that is denied you should appeal. You have the right to a hearing where you have the ability to tell a judge about your case.

When you attend a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge they will ask you questions about your cancer, treatment, and how it affects you. For example, they will want to know when you started feeling sick and how sick you felt. They will likely ask you questions about any radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, or other treatment you receive. Many technical questions about your cancer the judge can get from the medical records but it helps if you can remember what your doctors have told you about your disease.

Client’s Fully-Favorable Decision

In the case of a recent Disability Alabama client with cancer, we were able to establish that they qualified for a listing and were able to get a quick decision after a hearing. Preparation and complete medical records go a long way to proving any disability case, including those involving cancer.

Where to get help:

  1. You can browse the Social Security listings for cancer here. They may give you a better idea of whether you automatically qualify for disability;
  2. Use Disability Alabama’s disability calculator for an estimate of your benefit. While you do not need any special information to complete the calculation you may want to take a moment to think about your average yearly income and current household income before using the disability calculator; and
  3. If you’re in Alabama, give Disability Alabama a call. Our consultations are free and we only get a fee if you win your case.