Patients Helping Patients Blog
Qualifying for Disability Benefits with Cancer
Have you been diagnosed with cancer? If so, you might be eligible for financial aid. If so, the Social Security Administration (SSA) might be able to help. The SSA offers monthly financial resources for people with serious illnesses who are unable to work. While a cancer diagnosis does not automatically qualify, thousands of people with cancer are eligible for assistance.
Medically Qualifying for Disability
The SSA will refer to its own medical guide, known colloquially as the Blue Book, when you apply for disability benefits with cancer. The Blue Book contains details on exactly what medical results you’ll need for cancer to qualify. Cancer has different qualifying criteria depending on your specific diagnosis, so there’s no way to know if you’ll qualify without first consulting the Blue Book. Here are a couple of examples on how to qualify:
Prostate cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed forms of cancer, but the good news it’s highly treatable. Because of how receptive prostate cancer is to treatment, the criteria for qualification for prostate cancer are challenging to meet.
You will qualify for disability benefits with prostate cancer if your cancer has progressed or returned despite one round of anticancer therapy (usually three months’ hormonal therapy or chemotherapy will qualify), OR
Your cancer has spread to an internal organ, OR you have small-cell prostate cancer
Prostate cancer usually has to be Stage IV to qualify, but again, if your cancer has returned despite treatment you may still qualify at a lower stage.
Esophageal cancer is typically aggressive and challenging to treat, so you’ll actually qualify for Social Security disability benefits with just a diagnosis. Other forms of cancer that qualify with only a diagnosis include:
- Acute Leukemia
- Gallbladder cancer
- Brain Cancer (malignant, not benign tumors)
- Inflammatory Breast Cancer
- Liver Cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Salivary and Sinonasal Cancers
- Thyroid Cancer
The entire Blue Book is available online, so you can review the cancer listings with your oncologist to determine if you’ll meet a listing. Typically, if you can meet any one of the following criteria you’ll qualify:
- Your cancer is inoperable or untreatable
- Your cancer is Stage IV
- Your cancer returned despite treatment
Starting Your Application
Applying for benefits is a tedious process, but fortunately you can complete the entire application from the comfort of your own home. Apply online at the SSA’s website—you can even save your progress to be completed at a later date.
If you’d prefer, you can also apply in person at your closest Social Security office. There are over 1,300 offices located across the country. You can schedule an appointment to apply in person by calling the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213.
Once approved, you can spend your monthly benefits on medical bills and upcoming treatments, childcare, housing for your family during treatment, food or utility bills, or any other daily living expenses.
Social Security Administration: https://www.ssa.gov
Social Security Disability Evaluation: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/
Qualifying Criteria: https://www.disability-benefits-help.org/resources/medical-evidence
Social Security Disability Application: https://www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability/
Social Security Offices Locator: https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp
Bills Social Security Can Cover: https://www.disability-benefits-help.org/blog/bills-social-security-disability-benefits-cover