Cancer can have a profound impact on an individual's ability to work, significantly affecting their livelihood and quality of life. The diagnosis of cancer often brings with it not only the physical challenges associated with the disease itself but also the side effects of treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. These treatments can lead to fatigue, nausea, cognitive impairments, and other physical limitations that may hinder an individual's capacity to perform their job tasks effectively.

Moreover, the need for frequent medical appointments, hospital stays, and recovery periods can result in significant time away from work. For some, the effects of cancer and its treatment may be temporary, allowing for a return to work after a period of recovery. However, for others, the impact may be long-lasting or permanent, making it impossible to continue working in their previous capacity or any capacity at all.

In recognition of these challenges, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is available to provide financial assistance to individuals who are unable to work due to a disability, including cancer, under certain conditions. The Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates cancer cases based on the type of cancer, the stage, the treatment being received, and the response to treatment, among other factors. For certain aggressive or advanced cancers, the SSA's Compassionate Allowances program may expedite the processing of disability claims, acknowledging the severe impact these conditions have on an individual's ability to work.

Understanding the intersection between cancer's impact on work and eligibility for SSDI is crucial for affected individuals seeking support. It underscores the importance of comprehensive medical documentation and, in many cases, the assistance of a disability lawyer to navigate the complex application process for Social Security disability benefits.

The American Cancer Society annual report found that most cancer death rates continue to fall in the United States. The overall cancer death rate has fallen by 1.8% for men and 1.6% for women from 2004 to 2008. The improved outcomes are attributed to advances in cancer screening and treatment. This is great news for my Social Security Disability clients facing the cancer obstacle, however, this means an increased number of people living with the after-effects of cancer diagnosis and treatment.

I often get a question along the lines of “I have been diagnosed with cancer. Can I get disability benefits?”

Can I Get Disability Benefits for Cancer?

The short answer is "Yes, you can get disability benefits PROVIDED that the symptoms of your disease and/or the side effects of treatment limit your ability to work for at least one year."

Many clients and potential clients tell me they do not understand why their case was denied, as they have been diagnosed with and are receiving treatment for [INSERT TYPE] of cancer.

People will talk about how long they have had the diagnosis, what medications they take or tried, and how they know someone else with the same diagnosis who gets disability.

For most, this misses the point.

While a diagnosis is important, a diagnosis in and of itself will not support your disability.

The diagnosis is the starting point.

Your case is about establishing what your limitations are and how those limitations prevent you from working.

Qualifying for SSDI with Cancer: A Closer Look

From a social security disability benefits perspective, cancer and its treatment must first cause you to stop working at the substantial gainful activity level.

In most cases, the next determination is whether cancer and its treatment cause functional limitations on your ability to work (in both your past jobs and depending on your age – certain other jobs). Some cancers qualify as a listing-level impairment.

In many cases, the treatment, such as radiation or chemotherapy, causes severe side effects – such as extreme fatigue, nausea, and other problems.

The diagnosis can also cause depression or other mental health problems. Each of these creates functional limitations that are taken into account in your Social Security disability claim and are often the reason benefits are awarded.

Keeping journals of your daily problems and ensuring that your medical providers adequately document your problems can help tremendously in your quest for disability benefits.

South Louisiana disability claimants have several great options for treatment in care. In Metairie and the New Orleans area, East Jefferson General Hospital is affiliated with the MD Anderson Cancer Network and offers a Cancer Navigator program. In the Thibodaux/Houma (bayou region), the Thibodaux Regional Cancer Center offers a full range of treatment and support. There are other options for care in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Jefferson, Marrero, Gretna, and throughout all of south Louisiana.

If you have been diagnosed with cancer, I am encouraged by the ACS’s recent annual report for you and wish you good luck in your battle.

If you have specific questions about your disability claim, please contact me at 985-240-9773 for a free consultation or take our quick quiz to see if you may qualify for disability benefits.

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