Does Having Cancer Automatically Qualify Me for Social Security Disability?

February 4, 2021

Cancer is a disease that affects countless families in some way every year. In 2020, an estimated 1.8 million new cases were diagnosed in the United States alone. In their lifetime, an average person has nearly a 40% chance of being diagnosed with cancer.

While a diagnosis is damaging enough, not knowing what the future may hold for you and your family can be even worse. Financially, many people with cancer need to apply for social security disability benefits while they are sick – and potentially permanently.

Unfortunately, a simple cancer diagnosis alone isn’t enough to automatically qualify for social security disability benefits (SSDI). The Social Security Administration (SSA) has criteria that are specific to each applicant. Being approved or denied SSDI benefits will be very dependent on your particular type of cancer, and may require advanced testing and reports from a doctor to determine the severity and potential for cancer to be recurrent.

What Types of Cancer Automatically Qualify for Social Security Disability?

Given that a cancer diagnosis can come with many different caveats, it’s difficult to say how it will play out for you. This is why the SSA often needs several layers of documentation before approving SSDI benefits. However, there are some cancers that are historically aggressive where a diagnosis can automatically approve you for SSDI benefits. They are:

  • Brain Cancer
  • Liver Cancer
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Gallbladder Cancer
  • Esophageal Cancer
  • Salivary Cancer
  • Sinonasal Cancer
  • Thyroid Cancer
  • Breast Cancer – Inflammatory
  • Small Cell Cancer

Outside of these specific cancers, it is still possible to be approved for disability benefits, but it will require medical evidence beyond a simple diagnosis. This can include a biopsy report or other physicians’ notes related to the disease.

What is the SSA Blue Book Medical Guide?

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When determining what applicants will be approved for social security disability benefits, the SSA utilizes a medical guide called the Blue Book. The entire book is available online. You can review with an oncologist and talk to a lawyer to understand more about your chances of approval.

Without Blue Book approval, it is still possible to qualify for social security disability benefits. There is something called a Medical Vocational Allowance which allows for SSDI approval based on your inability to perform work that you are qualified for during a 12-month duration.

Understanding Cancer Medical Vocational Allowance and SSDI

Qualifying for a Medical Vocational Allowance after a cancer diagnosis is very dependent on age, work history, and the specifics of your cancer-caused limitations, specifically as it relates to being able to perform work duties. Someone that is over the age of 50 has a better chance of qualifying for a Medical Vocational Allowance because it is accepted by the SSA that older adults will have a harder time obtaining a job outside of what they are accustomed to or have already done.

Not having a college degree can be another factor that makes it slightly easier to be approved for SSDI benefits under a Medical Vocational Allowance. Someone without a degree is less likely to be able to obtain lighter duty work that they may be able to perform – and less likely to obtain new employment in general.

If you’ve only worked labor jobs, you may also qualify. Once again, if your entire work history is doing harder labor work and you are now limited, it is less likely that you will be able to be retrained on general office work or some other lighter-duty employment.

Denied Disability Benefits After Cancer Diagnosis

Due to the strict rules the SSA has in place, it is not unlikely that you have been or will be denied SSDI benefits after a cancer diagnosis. Luckily, this is not the end of the process, as you are able to appeal a social security disability denial.

If you’ve been denied benefits, get in touch with Tabak Law – a Milwaukee-based social security disability law firm that services clients throughout the country. We have had great success getting clients approved after an initial denial. Call our offices today at 844-432-0114 or fill out a form on this page for a no-cost, risk-free and confidential evaluation of your case.

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