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  • Writer's pictureSurviving Breast Cancer

How to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits with Breast Cancer

By Eric Minghella with the Disability Benefits Center


If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer and can no longer work, you can file a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI is funded by payroll taxes and offers monthly financial compensation to disabled individuals, who at one point could work, but now are no longer able to work. As long as you have worked in the past and expect that you won’t be able to work for at least a year because of breast cancer, you may be able to qualify for SSDI benefits.


Qualifying For Social Security Disability Benefits

Many people assume that having cancer automatically qualifies them for disability benefits. Some cancer types do automatically make someone eligible for disability benefits in the U.S., but not all cancers qualify for this automatic designation. The medical conditions that qualify someone to be approved for disability benefits are all listed in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book along with the requirements that you must meet to qualify for benefits because of that condition. You will have to submit medical evidence that you meet the requirements in the listings.


To qualify for disability benefits because of breast cancer your cancer must meet one of these conditions:

  • An advanced breast cancer that has extended to the chest, skin, or internal mammary nodes.

  • A carcinoma (cancer started in the cells of the skin or tissue lining organs) that has spread above or below the collarbone, has spread to 10+ nearby nodes, or spread to distant regions of the chest.

  • A carcinoma that returns after anticancer therapy.

  • Small-cell (oat cell) carcinoma.


You will have to submit a biopsy, mammogram, MRI scans, or any other medical documentation of your cancer that you have to the SSA when you are sending in your application. When you are applying, the SSA will let you know what paperwork to include with your application.



Medical Vocational Allowance

What happens if your breast cancer is early stage or doesn’t meet the listing requirements above but the treatment makes it impossible for you to work? Many individuals find themselves in this position. You may still be able to qualify for disability benefits with a Medical Vocational Allowance. To qualify in this regard you need to have your doctor fill out a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) evaluation.


This is a sheet where your doctor can write in detail about your symptoms, your treatment, and why you can’t work. The SSA will look at the RFC form, your work history, your skill set, and other factors to determine if there is any kind of work that you can do with the limitations that you have. If they can’t find any jobs that you can do with the skills you have and the work limitation from breast cancer, then they may declare you eligible for disability benefits.


Filing A Claim

Don’t wait to file a claim for disability benefits. You can apply easily online. If you need help filing disability, you can make an appointment to apply in person at an SSA’s office location. Make sure you have copies of all your medical documentation, and you can submit your claim packet for disability benefits online.

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