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Non-small cell lung cancer can I get SSDI?

Recently on our disability forum a user asked, “I have been diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer. If I am unable to work will I be eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

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Who can get SSDI benefits?

Millions of workers apply for SSDI benefits each year. Unfortunately, only about 30% of first time applicants are approved. To ensure you are approved the first time you apply it’s critical to understand the requirements for SSDI.

First, you must have a severe condition which is expected to last at least 12 continuous months which does not allow you to work. Next, you must have worked and paid into the Social Security Trust Fund, earning what the SSA terms “work credits.” If you do not have enough work credits you will be automatically denied SSDI benefits, regardless of the severity of your health condition.

What is non-small cell lung cancer?


Now, you mentioned you have non-small cell lung cancer which can include adenocarcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, or large cell carcinomas. The good news is that this type of cancer generally progresses more slowly than other types of lung cancers. Unfortunately, however, if the cancer is not detected, it can become inoperable, recurrent, or metastasize to other parts of the body or beyond the hilar nodes.

Whether or not you will be able to continue to work with non-small cell cancer can depend on your prognosis and how far the cancer has spread. Additionally, some treatment options such as radiation therapy, surgery, and chemotherapy may leave you substantially debilitated and unable to work.

Symptoms that you will have to deal with, regardless of whether or not you continue to work, can include wheezing, streaks of blood in your mucus, loss of appetite, fatigue, chronic cough, chest discomfort, and difficulty breathing.

Applying for SSDI benefits with non-small cell cancer?

So how do you apply for SSDI benefits? First, determine if you meet the nonmedical requirements for SSDI. Next, determine the severity of your condition. For example, if you have non-small cell lung cancer which has metastasized or which is unresectable, inoperable, or recurrent and you cannot work, it’s time to apply for SSDI now.

The good news is you should automatically qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance under the SSA’s Compassionate Allowance program (which includes a number of conditions which are considered automatically disabling).

Note, however, automatically getting benefits will be contingent on several factors: you will need to correctly complete the SSDI application, you cannot currently be working too many hours or making too much money, you must have sufficient work credits to qualify, and you must have evidence to support your claim of disability.

Do I need to hire a lawyer if I have non-small cell lung cancer?


If your condition is as severe as conditions automatically covered under the Compassionate Allowance Program you should not need to hire a disability lawyer.

If, however, your symptoms are not as severe as those listed to qualify under the Compassionate Allowance Program, the SSA may deny your case. If you receive an SSDI denial but you do not think you can work, talk to a disability lawyer about appealing the denial.

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