If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you may find that you are no longer able to work or earn a living. If you are facing circumstances such as these, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits. These benefits can help offset income lost due to unemployment and can help cover your increased medical expenses. Continue reading to see if you qualify for assistance.
Disability Benefit Programs
The Social Security Administration governs the two main public disability assistance programs in the United States. These are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
SSDI is intended to provide financial assistance to disabled workers and their eligible family members. SSDI is funded through Social Security taxes, which are usually taken from workers’ paychecks. Only those who have worked and paid Social Security taxes are able to qualify for SSDI benefits. Learn more about SSDI eligibility, here: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/glossary/social-security-disability-insurance-ssdi.
SSI is a separate program that offers financial assistance to individuals with disabilities who earn very little income. To qualify for SSI applicants must fall within the financial limits set by the SSA. These limits control the amount of income a person can earn and the amount of resources a person can own. For more information about SSI eligibility, visit the following page: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi/text-eligibility-ussi.htm.
Be sure to research each of these programs to determine which program is the best fit for your particular needs.
Social Security Medical Eligibility
If you meet the program requirements for SSDI or SSI, you will also need to meet specific medical requirements.
First, you must be considered disabled according to the SSA’s definition of disability. This definition states that an applicant is disabled if he or she has a long-term, physical or mental condition that prevents him or her from participating in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). In 2014, SGA is considered to be earning $1,070 per month. If you do not meet the SSA’s definition of disabled, you will not qualify for either type of benefits.
In addition to the general definition of disability, you will also need to meet medical criteria specific to your breast cancer. These criteria are listed in a publication referred to as the SSA’s Blue Book. Essentially, the Blue Book is a long list of symptoms and conditions that qualify for disability benefits.
Breast cancer is evaluated under Blue Book listing 13.10—Malignant Neoplastic Diseases of the Breast. To meet this listing, applicants must provide the SSA with medical evidence of the following:
· Locally advanced carcinoma (inflammatory carcinoma, tumor of any size with direct extension to the chest wall or skin, tumor of any size with metastases to the ipsilateral internal mammary nodes); OR
· Carcinoma with metastases to the supraclavicular or infraclavicular nodes, to 10 or more axillary nodes, or with distant metastases; OR
· Recurrent carcinoma, except local recurrence that remits with antineoplastic therapy.
Medical Vocational Allowance
In the event you are unable to qualify for benefits by meeting a Blue Book listing, you may still be able eligible to receive benefits under something called a medical vocational allowance.
To qualify under a medical vocational allowance, your functional abilities, your age, and your previous job training must indicate that you are unable to perform any type of work. After evaluating each of these factors, the SSA will decide whether or not you can work. If it is determined that you are capable of holding a job, your application will be denied. If the SSA determines that you cannot hold a job, you will likely be approved to receive benefits.
Preparing to Submit Your Application
Prior to submitting your application for disability benefits, you will have to collect medical and non-medical records to validate your claim. Medical records may include the following:
· Findings of physical and mental examinations
· Records of your diagnosis
· History of your hospitalizations, treatments, and surgeries
· Pathology reports
· CTs, X-rays, and MRIs
· Notes concerning the malignancy, location, and growth of your cancer
· Written statements from your doctors about your condition and your inability to work
Non-medical records may include different forms of identification, financial statements, and employment records. For a complete list of non-medical document requirements, visit the following page: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/Documents/Checklist%20-%20Adult.pdf.
Once you are ready to begin the application process, you can do so in one of two ways: you can fill out the required forms online or you can schedule an interview with a representative from the SSA. Which method you choose depends on how comfortable with the process you are and how clearly you can present your claim.
Regardless of how you submit your claim, you will need to take your time when filling out the application paperwork. The information you provide should be accurate, detailed, and consistent throughout all forms. Any missing, inaccurate, or inconsistent information could potentially harm the outcome of your claim.
Receiving a decision
Typically, it can take several months to receive the SSA’s decision on an initial application. Fortunately, breast cancer qualifies for expedited application processing through the Compassionate Allowance program. The Compassionate Allowance program allows individuals with serious disabilities to be approved for benefits in as little as two weeks.
If you are approved for benefits, you will receive a letter outlining your award and payment schedule. However, many initial applications are denied. If your claim is denied, do not panic. You can appeal the SSA’s decision within 60 days of receiving your notice of denial. Although it is discouraging to be denied, the appeals process is often a necessary step toward being approved for disability benefits. In fact, many more applicants are approved during appeals proceedings than during the initial application process.
For more information about applying for disability benefits with breast cancer, visit the following page: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/compassionate-allowances/breast-cancer-and-social-security-disability.
“Doctors are only one part of the healing equation when you’re sick. Pink-Link gives breast cancer patients an easy way to meet the exact people they most want to talk to, women who have first-hand experience navigating their particular diagnosis, treatment and recovery issues. It helps them make more informed decisions, brings them comfort, & can even speed their healing.” ~ Dr. Scott Sale, MD
“I hope to be in contact with members who are going through what I did. Having been through it and survived to be happy and whole again, helps me feel like helping others who are as frightened as I was. It seems to be a trait that is common to survivors.” ~ Louise T., Trumball, Connecticut, Pink-Link member
“I want to say thank you for your website. I found a girl on your website in my area that was young like me. Because of our relationship we are now starting a support group for young breast cancer survivors in the Baton Rouge area. It has been a real need in this area. Because of your website we have made it happen.” ~ Shannon B., Baton Rouge, LA, Pink-Link member
“I do so enjoy your monthly newsletter, and have referred friends who have been diagnosed with breast cancer to your webpage. I also have been fortunate enough to have been selected as a mentor and was able to help a woman in Virginia get through her treatment. We are still in touch, and I'm sure we will be for a long time.” ~ Eleanor T., Monrovia, California, Pink-Link member
“Social support can be very important for breast cancer survivors as they recover from treatment. Providing access to mentors is part of Pink-Link’s mission. They connect survivors in a confidential, user-friendly manner. I’m proud to be a board member & recommend their website as an important patient resource.” ~Dr. Patricia Ganz, MD, UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center
“I am grateful for Pink-Link. The interaction with other breast cancer survivors has been the best therapy. I can keep up to date with the newest developments, and more importantly, it gives me hope for the future - thanks to Pink-Link!” ~ Anna G., Warner Robins, Georgia, Pink-Link member
“As a survivor struggling with my own issues, I think it's imperative and extremely helpful to have sites like Pink-Link to aid in our recovery and ongoing support.” ~ Mary Jo, Alamogordo, New Mexico, Pink-Link member
“Even when they’re healthy, women thrive on community, but this need is magnified when women are in crisis. Pink-Link helps breast cancer patients connect to one another and to survivors in a way that can dramatically assist in their healing, both physical and emotional.” ~ Dr. Kauser Ahmed, PhD, Staff Clinician, UCLA/Ted Mann Family Resource Center