Social Security Disability Benefits

How To Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits With Breast Cancer

By Lauren DiCenso

Did you know that nearly 1 in 8 women will battle breast cancer in her lifetime? It is the second most common type of cancer in the United States, coming in right after skin cancer.

Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant cancer cells form in the tissues of the breast. There are several factors that may increase the risk of getting breast cancer, including being female, having a family history of breast cancer, older age, drinking alcohol, radiation exposure and other risk factors.

Thankfully, death rates from breast cancer have been declining over the past decade because of increased awareness, better screening and early detection, and new-and-improved treatment options.

It’s never easy for you to find out you have breast cancer, but there may be some helpful resources available for your family to make things a little easier. A diagnosis of breast cancer will almost always require surgery and chemotherapy. Without insurance the costs of these treatments can be astronomical. Even with insurance, it’s always nice to get some help.

While a breast cancer diagnosis will not always “automatically” qualify, cancer is the third most-commonly approved condition for Social Security benefits.

There are three separate circumstances under which a person can be eligible for disability benefits based on a breast cancer diagnosis. If you meet any of these criteria you can apply for Social Security Disability benefits so that you can receive payments that will give you the money you need to survive while you are in treatment.

Compassionate Allowance For Serious Breast Cancer Cases

Some conditions are so clearly disabling, the SSA will expedite the claim to ensure an applicant is approved quickly. This is a special program known as “Compassionate Allowances.”

The first circumstance is when a person is diagnosed with Stage 3 or higher that is inoperable or terminal. If you have been diagnosed with inoperable or terminal breast cancer you should apply for Social Security Disability benefits immediately.

Your diagnosis qualifies you for expedited processing of your claim and you may receive benefits in as little ten days under the Social Security Compassionate Allowance Program. You shouldn’t have to submit any other medical documentation than your diagnosis and possibly a report from your doctor.

Blue Book Breast Cancer Criteria

The Social Security Administration uses the “Blue Book,” which is a list of impairments that help the SSA determine who is eligible for benefits. If you meet the Blue Book requirements for breast cancer you are eligible to receive disability payments. The requirements that are listed in the Blue Book are very technical so you might need to ask your oncologist or get a report from your doctor to show that you meet these criteria.

The Blue Book requirements in order to quality for disability payments due to breast cancer are:

  • inflammatory carcinoma
  • tumor with direct extension to the chest wall or skin
  • distant metastases
  • metastases to the supraclavicularor or infraclavicular nodes
  • metastaes to ten or more axillary nodes
  • metastases to the ipsilateral internal mammary nodes, or
  • recurrent carcinoma (excluding a local recurrence that is controlled by treatment).

You can have a breast cancer advocate or your doctor review the Blue Book requirements with you if you are not sure if you qualify for disability payments based on those criteria.

Medical Vocational Allowance

Another way you can receive disability benefits is if your breast cancer is in a relatively early stage or if you are only expected to have to go through a few months of treatment.

Even though your cancer may not be very advanced, fighting it can take time and energy and leave you unable to work. If you don’t meet the specific Blue Book criteria for benefits, but you find that you are unable to work due to your treatments, you may qualify for a Medical Vocational Allowance.

To get a Medical Vocational Allowance the SSA will perform a Residual Functional Capacity evaluation. This evaluation is to see if you have the physical ability, education, or training to do some kind of work even if it’s not the work you were previously doing before you got sick. If the RFC finds that you don’t have the ability or education or skill set to do any other kind of work you can get benefits while you are fighting breast cancer.

It is also important to get a yearly mammogram and do a monthly self-exam to help catch breast cancer in early stages.

Apply For Social Security Disability Benefits

You can apply for Social Security Disability benefits online right now. If you prefer to talk with a local SSA representative and complete your application in person you can find your local SSA office here. If you’re not able to complete the application yourself you can have a friend, spouse, family member, caregiver or advocate prepare the application for you.

This article was written by Lauren DiCenso at Disability Benefits Help providing information about disability benefits and the application process. Lauren’s Mom was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer when she was in first grade. At such a young age, it was hard for her to understand what was happening to her mom. She remember giving her a drawing of a volcano that was exploding with hearts instead of lava. She told her years later that that was what pushed her to not give up.