If you or a woman you love had been diagnosed with cancer, there may be resources available. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers monthly financial aid for people of all ages who are unable to work due to a serious illness. Cancer will not automatically qualify, but thousands of people are able to receive help every year if their cancer is advanced enough.
Medical Criteria Via the Blue Book
The SSA uses its own medical guide, known colloquially as the Blue Book, to review all Social Security disability applicants. The Blue Book contains hundreds of conditions that potentially qualify for Social Security benefits, plus the symptoms or test results you’ll need to be approved.
This means that when applying for disability benefits, you should compare your medical records to the required criteria listed in the Blue Book. If your cancer diagnosis is as advanced as what’s needed via the Blue Book, you should qualify for aid.
Breast cancer is listed in Section 14.10 of the Blue Book. Under this listing, you’ll have five ways to qualify for benefits:
- Your cancer is locally advanced, meaning it has spread to the chest wall or skin
- Your cancer has spread to 10 or more axillary nodes
- Your cancer returned despite treatment (3+ months’ chemotherapy almost always qualifies)
- You have small-cell breast cancer
- You have secondary lymphedema caused by chemotherapy requiring surgery to restore use of an arm
A good rule of thumb is if your cancer isn’t recurrent, anyone with breast cancer Stage IIIC (but sometimes IIIB) or beyond will qualify. IBC and metastatic breast cancer always, without fail, medically qualifies for disability benefits.
Ovarian cancer is found in Section 13.23 of the Blue Book. Under this listing, there are three ways to qualify:
- You have anything other than germ-cell cancer, with ONE of the following: 1) Extension beyond the pelvis (such as to the bowels) 2) Spread beyond the regional lymph nodes or 3) Returned despite treatment
- You have germ-cell cancer that has returned or grew despite anticancer therapies
- You have small-cell ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer can sometimes qualify at Stage IIB, but will most often qualify at Stage IIIA1 or beyond.
Endometrial cancer would also be evaluated in Section 13.23 of the Blue Book. Under this listing, there are two ways to qualify:
- Your cancer has spread to the pelvic wall, lower portion of the vagina, or distant lymph nodes
- Your cancer returned despite anticancer therapies
Endometrial cancer usually qualifies around Stage IIIC1.
The entire Blue Book is available online, so you can review the listings with your oncologist to get a better idea as to whether or not your cancer will qualify.
Starting Your Application
The easiest way to apply for disability benefits is online on the SSA’s website. If you’d prefer, you can always apply at your closest Social Security office. To schedule an appointment, call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213.
It’ll take 3-5 months to hear back from the SSA, unless you have metastatic cancer. Those claims are usually approved within two weeks due to an applicant’s dire need for aid. Once approved, you can spend your benefits on medical bills, childcare, monthly utilities or rent, or any other daily living needs.
If you have any questions, please contact Deanna Power at firstname.lastname@example.org.