For those of you going through breast cancer and those who have loved ones facing the disease, following is information on how to apply for Social Security Benefits provided by Deanna Power,
Community Outreach Manager with Social Security Disability Help
Applying for Social Securtiy Benefits When Facing Breast Cancer
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 231,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed every year. If you are one of the over quarter million women who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, you will understand the emotional and financial hardships that come with the disease. Because millions of Americans are unable to work due to a disability, the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers financial benefits for those in need.
What Types of Benefits are Available?
The SSA offers two forms of disability benefits. Qualifying medically for each is the same, but both programs have their own technical requirements.
Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI benefits, is for adults who have worked throughout their lives. SSDI is funded by taxpayers, so if you did not pay taxes, you will not qualify. SSDI recipients will be enrolled in Medicare 24 months after their disability began.
Supplementary Security Income, or SSI, is for people of ages. There is not a work requirement, but there are strict income or asset limitations. If you have resources saved, or if you are married to a high earning spouse, you will not qualify for SSI benefits. The SSA also manages Medicaid in Texas, so SSI applicants will automatically be enrolled in Medicaid once approved.
Medically Qualifying for Breast Cancer
When looking at any application, the SSA will evaluate a claim based on their medical guide called the Blue Book. The Blue Book lists hundreds of disabilities and conditions, and which symptoms or test results must be present for an applicant to Breast cancer is listed in Section 13.10 of the SSA’s Blue Book. This listing qualifies that your breast cancer meets ONE of the following conditions:
- Your cancer is locally advanced, extending to the chest wall or skin, or has metastasized (spread) to internal mammary nodes or other regional nodes
- Your cancer is recurrent despite treatment
- Your cancer is small-cell
- Your cancer treatment has called lymphedema (swelling of an arm or leg) and requires surgery to restore function of limb.
If your breast cancer has metastasized or comes back after treatment, not only will you qualify for disability benefits, but you will qualify for a special form of disability benefits called a Compassionate Allowance. A Compassionate Allowance is a condition that the SSA knows is obviously disabling. Because of this, you will be approved for benefits much faster than most applicants. Someone who qualifies for a Compassionate Allowance can expect to be approved in as little as 10 days.
Qualifying Without Meeting a Listing
If you do not meet one of the SSA’s Blue Book’s listings for breast cancer, you can still qualify for benefits! The SSA will evaluate you by asking you to fill out a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form. An RFC looks at your ability to stand, sit, or walk for extended periods of time. It also looks at your ability to lift and pull weights, and if you are able to preform day-to-day tasks such as preparing food or getting dressed. If your cancer treatment causes you to be in severe pain or experience other severe side effects that limit your activity to less than even sedentary work, then you could still qualify for disability benefits.
How to Apply for Benefits
If you worked and qualify for SSDI benefits, you can complete the entire application online. Be sure to be as thorough as possible when completing the application, especially if your breast cancer does not meet the Blue Book listing. Of the 70% of applicants that are initially denied, one out of three is denied due to a technical error, such as misspelling the name of a hospital where they were treated. In Texas, you will have a 32.6% chance of getting approved initially, which is about the same as the national average.
If you are applying for SSI benefits, you must complete the application in person at your local SSA office. There are more than 1300 offices across the country, and Texas alone has more than 70 offices. To make an appointment, you can call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213.