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Can a Cancer Diagnosis be the Basis for Awarding Disability Benefits?

Many individuals suffering from cancer wonder if they can receive Social Security Disability benefits. Fortunately, this is one of the most straightforward sections of the Listing of Impairments, or “Listings.” Listings are a kind of shortcut to disability. They allow for a finding of disability without considering vocational factors such as the ability to perform past work. Listings usually require many specific requirements to support a finding of disability. This is generally not true for some cancers. 

Many different cancers, or “malignant neoplastic diseases” in the language of the Listings, can be disabling with just a diagnosis. For example, Listing 13.19 simply reads “Liver or gallbladder– cancer of the liver, gallbladder, or bile ducts.” Under this Listing, any cancer of the liver, gallbladder, or bile ducts allows for a finding of disability. This means that the claimant can be found disabled as soon as this kind of cancer is diagnosed. Other kinds of cancer need to meet certain criteria, such as Listing 13.15 for lung cancer. Lung cancer must either be inoperable, or small-cell cancer, or carcinoma in a specific part of the lung. 

Some cancers also qualify for Compassionate Allowances, a streamlined process to approve dire claims quickly. These compassionate allowances include, for example, inoperable breast, bladder, or ovarian cancer. There are also cancers that qualify for disability by simple diagnosis such as liver or gallbladder cancer.

A Social Security lawyer can help in situations when a claimant has a Listing-level diagnosis of cancer. Social Security will often want to approve such a claim from the date of diagnosis or positive test result. This can be difficult for claimants because Social Security Disability has a five-month waiting period before benefits start. A Social Security attorney can help review the file to determine the earliest time the cancer was present. This can result in earlier payments.

Even if the cancer does not meet a Listing or Compassionate Allowance, a claimant with cancer may still be disabled. Cancer treatment, and side-effects after surgery or chemotherapy, can severely impact the ability to work. 

If you or a loved one are suffering from cancer, please contact a Social Security lawyer at Green & Greenberg. We can help you navigate your paperwork, get critical medical reports, and help maximize your eligibility for benefits.