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Social Security Disability and cancer

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Cancer affects many Americans; over 1.6 million cases were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2014 alone, according to National Cancer Institute estimates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. As most Social Security Tennessee attorneys know, cancer can also be highly debilitating. Fortunately, Social Security Disability benefits may be available to victims.

Evaluating cancer

Various cancers are included in the Social Security Administration's "Blue Book" of impairments. These conditions are automatically considered disabling if they meet the requirements outlined in the Blue Book. Usually, the Blue Book specifies characteristics, such as recurrence or inoperability, that cancer must have to be considered disabling. However, some cancers qualify as disabling based on a diagnosis alone. These cancers include:

  • Inflammatory breast cancer
  • Small cell cancer of the lungs or mesothelioma of the pleura
  • Pancreatic, liver, bile duct or gall bladder cancer

Certain cancers qualify for the SSA's Compassionate Allowances (CAL) program. This program allows expedited claim processing for conditions that are severe enough to virtually always qualify as disabling. The SSA requires minimal objective evidence to support a CAL claim, and in some cases, applicants may receive a decision within weeks of applying for benefits.

Medical-vocational allowances

Many Social Security Tennessee attorneys know cancer can be highly disabling without meeting the requirements established in the Blue Book. When this is the case, applicants may qualify for medical-vocational allowances. The SSA must determine an applicant cannot do work he or she performed previously or take up new work. An applicant's job-related skills, age and educational level may all affect the SSA's evaluation of the applicant's ability to pursue new work.

The SSA may also weigh side effects of necessary treatments when considering whether applicants qualify for medical-vocational allowances. For instance, chemotherapy can cause anemia, fatigue, nausea and pain, which may prevent a person from working. Applicants can bolster their claims by documenting these effects through personal statements, reports from treating physicians or even accounts from friends, co-workers and family members.

Supporting a claim

As Social Security Tennessee attorneys can explain, adequate medical documentation is essential in any disability claim. Applicants who suffer from cancer should provide medical evidence to establish the disease's origin and extent. Reports from diagnostic operations, such as biopsies or needle aspiration, can also act as supporting evidence. The SSA may require additional information for recurrent or progressive cases.

Before awarding benefits, the SSA also must consider the length and effectiveness of treatment. In some cases, the SSA may defer evaluating cancer until the effects of treatment become clear. However, if other medical evidence supports a determination of disability, the SSA can make the determination without unnecessary delay.

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