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Cancer and Social Security Disability Benefits

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="156" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]From the National Cancer Institute. http://pre...[/caption]

The word cancer is scary to all workers, and many claimants who have been diagnosed with cancer might believe that they are automatically disabled and no longer able to work. While many types of cancers may be considered automatically disabled (see Compassionate Allowance) many types are not.

Factors evaluated by the Social Security Administration for Cancer Diagnosis


If you have been diagnosed with cancer the Social Security Administration (SSA) will evaluate several factors to determine your level of impairment: the amount the cancer has spread to other tissues, how you have responded to therapy, the residual impairments you have following your treatment plan, the type of cancer and the location of the cancer.

What medical evidence does the Social Security Administration Evaluate?


If you have been diagnosed with cancer the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluate your most recent medical records which should include laboratory findings, symptoms and signs. If you have had surgery to remove the cancer the SSA would expect to have surgical notes, operative notes and pathological reports detailing the microscopic examination of the cancerous tissue.

The Social Security Administration, as mentioned above, will evaluate the likelihood that the cancer will spread. Certain types of cancers may be considered disabling based on their “probability of progression.” For example, if you have had surgery to remove a tumor but there is evidence that the cancer has “metastasized beyond the regional lymph nodes” the SSA will accept that it is likely that the cancer will begin to exhibit in other regions of your body and may find you disabled.

Meeting a Listing on the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments for Cancer


Given the numerous types of cancers the Social Security Administration has created numerous listing in their Social Security Administration Listing of Impairments to document the symptoms that claimants need to be considered automatically disabled.

For instance, under 13.00 Malignant Neoplastic Diseases, the Social Security Administration has listing for Lymphoma, Leukemia, brain tumors, breast cancer, lung cancer, cancer of the small intestines, stomach cancer and pancreatic cancer, just to name a few.

Each listing will have various symptoms and signs that the Social Security Administration considers disabling. If you have been diagnosed with a cancer which is found in the SSA Listing of Impairments this does not guarantee you will be considered disabled. Your condition must “meet or exceed” the listing and you must meet the nonmedical requirements for either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

What if my cancer does not meet a listing?


You may also win Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits if you can prove through a medical vocational allowance that you cannot perform substantial gainful activity. Cancer treatments, side-effects and the residual impairments can vary widely by claimant.

If you do not meet a listing you will need to prove through your medical records that you do not have the residual ability to work. For instance, has the treatment left you weak, tired, nauseous or vomiting? Do you have to take high levels of medication that may make it unsafe for you to work? What is your schedule for treatment? Do you have radiation or chemotherapy treatments which make it impossible to complete an eight hour work day? Have you had reactive mental disorders, cardiovascular complications, gastrointestinal symptoms or neurological complications?

If you answered yes to these questions your disability lawyer may be able to prove that your condition and the residual complications make it impossible for you to work.

 
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