Do I Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits If I Have Cancer?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t always make it easy for those with cancer to get the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income benefits they deserve. Many claims are denied because SSA says:
(1) Your medical condition doesn’t meet the requirements of or is the equivalent of a Medical Listing,
(2) You can return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled, or
(3) There is other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity.
A diagnosis of cancer does not automatically mean you are entitled to Social Security Disability benefits. It is the location of the cancer, the formation and development of the cancer, the prognosis, the response to treatment and treatment side effects that are key to winning your benefits.
SSA requires objective evidence of the diagnosis.
Nancy Cavey has successfully represented many SSA applicants with all types of cancer. She works to overcome the claims denial by working closely with you and your physician to show that you:
- Qualify for the Compassionate Allowances program,
- Meet the requirements for a disability listing, or that
- Your limitations are too great for you to work at your old job or any other job in the national economy in view of your age, education and transferable work skills.
She offers a free initial consultation and welcomes the opportunity to speak with you about your Social Security disability claim.
An Overview of Cancer and The Symptoms of Cancer
Cancer is an uncontrolled abnormal cell growth that damages a cell’s genetic material. There are more than 100 types of cancer, each with its own symptoms, stages and treatment options.
Some forms of cancer are fatal, and others are treatable. As a result, the length of disability depends on the type of cancer, the treatment you receive and the side-effects of treatment.
The six major types of cancer are:
- Cancer of the central nervous system.
The common symptoms of the major types of cancer can include:
- Changes in the urine
- Skin changes
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Abnormal lumps and other changes in the body.
Many times treatment causes disabling symptoms. It is not uncommon for chemotherapy and radiation to cause:
- Chemo brain
- Tingling and numbness in the fingers and toes
- Bowel problems
The Compassionate Allowances Program and Cancer
The Compassionate Allowances program can fast-track benefits for certain cancer conditions, including metastatic brain or spinal cord carcinoma, inflammatory breast cancer or cancer of the liver, bile ducts, gall bladder or pancreas. Your claim for Social Security disability benefits should be approved in a matter of weeks.
If you qualify for SSDI, there is a five-month waiting period before you can collect your benefits. The clock starts with the onset of your disability. If you will qualify for SSI, your SSI benefits will be paid immediately.
When Your Cancer Meets A Listing
If you don’t qualify for a Compassionate Allowances program, many cancers are included in the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments.” If you meet or have the equivalent of a Listing, your Social Security disability benefits will be awarded at Step 3 of the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation
Your medical records must establish that you meet every element of the applicable Listing for your cancer to be considered disabling. SSA will review your medical records and look for the following:
- A specific cancer diagnosis,
- A history of your symptoms,
- Diagnostic findings on testing like MRI imaging, PET scans and biopsies.
If you don’t meet or equal a listing, SSA then will determine your entitlement to benefits based on medical and vocational criteria at Steps 4 and 5.
When Your Cancer Makes It Impossible to Work
If your cancer doesn’t meet a listing, you will have to prove that you:
- Can’t return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled (PRW), and
- There isn’t any other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity (RFC).
SSA or, ultimately an Administrative Law Judge, will answer those questions by determining your residual functional capacity. Your RFC is what you can do despite your cancer.
Residual Functional Capacity For Cancer
The SSA will review your medical records at the Initial Application and Reconsideration stage of the claims process and determine your functional capacity to perform sedentary, light, medium and heavy work.
SSA medical consultants often opine that a Social Security Disability applicant can do light and sedentary work, and that will result in a claims denial. The lower your RFC the more likely you can’t return to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years or perform other work. SSA doesn’t tell applicants or physicians about the existence and importance of properly completed RFC forms that will explain:
- How far you can walk,
- How long you can stand and sit at one time and for an eight-hour day,
- How much and how often you can lift, stoop, squat, bend during an eight-hour day,
- How your pain, fatigue, headaches or chemo fog impacts your physical activity and cognitive abilities,
- Whether you have good days and bad days and how many days per month you would miss from work, and
- Whether you have any psychological problems, like depression, mood swings or anxiety that would interfere with your ability to work.
This is not an exhaustive list of all of the questions on a cancer RFC form. But you can see that having an explanation of what you can do physically, cognitively and emotionally is key to winning your case.
Many SSA cases are lost because the applicant did not obtain an RFC or the right RFC form, or because their treating physician didn’t properly complete the RFC form. That is one of the many reasons you should have an experienced Social Security attorney like Nancy L. Cavey represent you in your claim.
How Your Residual Functional Capacity Is Used At A Social Security Hearing
Many claims are denied both at the Initial Application and Request For Reconsideration stages of the claims process.
At the hearing stage, the Administrative Law Judge will determine your RFC and give hypotheticals to the vocational evaluator (VE) who will testify at your hearing. The judge will ask the VE to take into consideration your RFC, as determined by the judge, your age, education and prior work experience in determining:
- Whether you can return to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years,
- Whether there is other work you can do or could learn to do.
It is crucial that you are represented at a hearing to make sure the right questions are asked of the VE.
How Do I Get The Social Security Disability Benefits I Deserve?
Cancer and the side effects of treatment can interfere not only with your daily activities but with your ability to work. If you no longer can work or your doctor has told you to apply for Social Security disability, you should hire Nancy Cavey to help you:
- File your initial Social Security Disability application. The application process is confusing and designed so you make mistakes that can result in a delay or even a denial of your benefits.
- Appeal a wrongful denial of your Social Security disability application or Request for Reconsideration.
- File an Application for Hearing and represent you at the hearing with the Administrative Law Judge who will decide if you get benefits. She will have your physician, if possible, complete the right RFC(s), prepare you for the hearing, prepare a hearing brief, and be prepared to cross-examine the VE.
The SSA is in the business of denying claims and will use any reason to deny your benefits. The odds of getting your Social Security benefits are greater when you are represented by an experienced Social Security Disability attorney like Ms. Cavey.
Contact Social Security Disability Attorney Nancy L. Cavey, Who Can Help You Regardless of Where You Live in Florida
Cancer can make it difficult, if not impossible, to work. You owe it to yourself and your family to get help today! Nancy Cavey can explain the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation process used in every claim, the claims process and how to get your disability benefits for cancer. Call today for a free consultation at 727-894-3188.