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Social Security Disability

What you need to know when dealing with cancer

social security card

Renee Echols, Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor

A cancer diagnosis presents a variety of challenges, not the least of which are financial challenges. Social Security Disability Insurance, a benefit payment that you can receive when a disability renders you unable to work, could be an option for you to consider. Disability benefits provide a safety net when a medical condition such as cancer prevents people living with cancer from working. People can receive disability payments for a few years until their medical condition improves sufficiently to enable them to return to employment.

If you have a cancer diagnosis, you will need to complete an application that includes submission of medical proof of your cancer diagnosis and verification from medical and other professionals that you are unable to work due to your condition. In addition, a large part of your eligibility for disability depends upon your history of employment. In most cases, you should have five years or more of employment completed to receive disability payments.

The medical determination board must determine that the applicant cannot work due to their medical condition, and the Social Security Administration must decide that, given your level of education and skills, no other employment would be suitable given your medical condition and prognosis. In some cases the Administration will expedite an application if the requirements met are deemed to be a "compassionate allowance." Some cancer diagnoses that meet the compassionate criteria include, but are not limited to:

  • Inflammatory breast cancer
  • Primary liver cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Glioma grades III and IV
  • Primary nervous system lymphoma
  • Primary effusion lymphoma
  • Sinonasal cancer
  • Thyroid cancer

In the case of other types of cancer diagnoses, you may qualify for disability or Supplemental Security Income, if your cancer has metastasized to other parts of your body and/or is not responding to treatment.

The information needed for applying for Supplemental income is the same as for disability, however, you must apply in person or over the phone – there is no online application. In some cases, depending on your employment history, income and resources, you could receive both disability and supplemental payments.<.p>

The amount of your monthly SSDI payment will be determined by the extent of your employment history and your earnings.

If you qualify for supplemental income, you may be eligible for Medicaid coverage through the state. Ask your worker when applying about this coverage for you.

If you are initially denied disability and/or supplemental benefits, keep in mind that there is a robust appeal process available to you. Most social workers have some knowledge of the application process, so if you have questions or concerns ask them for guidance.

Learn more about cancer and financial matters:

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