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Seeking SSD benefits for mesothelioma


Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that can develop due to asbestos exposure. The disease is incurable and can be highly debilitating, causing symptoms such as coughing, fatigue and pain. According to the American Cancer Society, about 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, including some people in Chicago. Individuals who have been diagnosed with this disease may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits and even expedited processing.

Filing requirements

The Social Security Administration automatically considers mesothelioma of the pleura disabling. Mesothelioma of the mediastinum qualifies as disabling if it persists despite treatment or if it spreads beyond the regional lymph node. People seeking disability benefits for mesothelioma must provide medical records to prove these criteria are met. The SSA requires the following specific evidence to establish the existence of mesothelioma:

  • A tissue sample biopsy
  • Pathology findings from the examination of the tissue sample
  • Other diagnostic tests, such as chest CT scans, MRIs and x-rays

If an applicant meets these criteria, the SSA will not evaluate whether the applicant can work despite the mesothelioma. However, the SSA still must consider other non-medical criteria. SSD benefits are only available to people with adequate earnings records. Additionally, benefit recipients cannot engage in substantial gainful activity. In 2014, this is work producing monthly income over $1,070.

If a person meets the SSA's non-medical criteria, but his or her condition does not meet the disability criteria, the person may qualify for a medical-vocational allowance. The SSA grants this type of allowance if a person's residual functional capacity prevents him or her from reasonably performing substantial gainful activity.

Expedited approval

Late detection of mesothelioma is common because symptoms are similar to those of less serious conditions. The disease often has an unfavorable prognosis by the time it is identified. The SSA ensures that victims receive benefits without any unnecessary delays by including certain types of mesothelioma in the Compassionate Allowances program.

The Compassionate Allowances program allows expedited claim processing and approval for certain conditions that almost invariably qualify as disabling. The SSA requires minimal objective evidence to support a claim involving a Compassionate Allowances condition. Both pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma are Compassionate Allowances conditions.

People whose conditions qualify for the Compassionate Allowances program should notify the SSA during the application process. Unfortunately, even if a person suffers from a Compassionate Allowances condition, filing mistakes or issues with medical documentation can result in claim denial. SSD applicants should consider working with an SSD lawyer to ensure the completed application meets the SSA's strict standards.

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