Any type of cancer diagnosis can be devastating and people are often unaware that sufferers are not always automatically entitled to Social Security disability. If you're newly diagnosed with cancer and find yourself unable to work, this is what you need to know.
Only a few types of cancer will automatically entitle you to benefits.
There are a few types of aggressive cancers that can allow you to receive benefits rather quickly, through what's known as a compassionate allowance. Compassionate allowances allow sufferers of diseases that are almost always disabling, like adrenal cancer and esophageal cancer, to avoid the lengthy process that often goes along with filing for benefits. In many cases, you can start receiving benefits within a few weeks of filing, as soon as the minimal amount of evidence from your doctor's office is received. Your condition still has to meet the requirements for approval, but many of these diseases are in the later stages of progression even when first diagnosed.
Your approval can be delayed due to expected recovery.
If your claim doesn't qualify for a compassionate allowance, you can still be approved for benefits, but the process may be slower. In some cases, a claim can be denied simply because there's doubt about whether or not you'll need a full year or longer to recover. Social Security disability isn't available for people whose disabilities aren't expected to last a full year or not end in death. It's entirely possible, unfortunately, for your claim to be denied until you've already been sick for a year.
Your disability may also be tied into the side-effects of treatment.
In many cases, it isn't the diagnosis of cancer alone that will qualify you for disability benefits. While cancer itself may cause a number of physical problems, the treatment to cure the disease may be even more debilitating. Treatments like radiation and chemotherapy can have a lasting impact on your ability to work both in the short-term and down the line because of the associated side effects:
- weakened bones
- cataracts and other eye problems
- heart problems
- chronic infections
- widespread pain
- chronic fatigue
Some cancers also require ongoing surgical procedures that can make working impossible for a long time, if not permanently. The type of jobs that you've done in the past and the work skills that you have may not easily transfer to a profession that can accommodate your ongoing problems.
For example, surgery for esophageal cancer can be extensive and can result in long-term complications with reflux, bloating, nausea, and abdominal pain that can be limiting for a lifetime. If you work in an office setting with liberal leave policies, you may be able to continue working. If you've always worked in construction, however, and don't have the skills to transfer to a different type of work, the condition would be entirely disabling.
If you're having trouble navigating the Social Security claims process, talk with an attorney, like J W Chalkley III PA, today.