Applying for Disability Benefits with Breast Cancer

From Disability Benefits Help:

Applying for Disability Benefits with Breast Cancer

If you are living with breast cancer, you face a series of heavy challenges: physical, emotional, and financial. If your condition has reached a stage where you are no longer able to work, you may be eligible for financial support from one of two available Social Security disability programs. Each one is offered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and provides monthly benefits that can cover your living expenses as well as medical treatment costs.

Some people battling breast cancer are unsure about whether or not they are “disabled” to the extent that they qualify for benefits. The SSA defines disability as a condition that:

  • Prevents you from doing the work you used to do
  • Leaves you unable to master a different trade
  • Is expected to last at least one year or be terminal

If this applies to you, support is available to help you meet the demands on your financial resources.


What Disability Benefits Are Available?

The SSA has two types of disability benefits available to those who qualify, each one with its own set of eligibility requirements.

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): This program is aimed at disabled workers and any eligible dependents. Applicants must have been employed long enough to pay a certain amount of Social Security taxes.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): SSI is a means-based program intended for disabled individuals with limited financial resources. Applicants must fall within certain income limits to qualify.

Medical Eligibility with Breast Cancer

When you apply for disability benefits, the SSA will determine your medical eligibility by reviewing the Blue Book, which is the organization’s official guidebook of disabling conditions. Breast cancer is specifically referenced under Listing 13.10: Cancer–Breast, which states that you will be considered disabled if you meet one of the criteria below:

  • A locally advanced carcinoma that has spread to the chest, skin, or internal mammary nodes
  • A carcinoma that has spread around the collarbone, affected at least 10 armpit nodes, or spread to distant regions of the chest
  • A carcinoma that keeps coming back after treatment
  • Small-cell carcinoma

A soft-tissue of the breast will be evaluated under Listing 13.04, which requires one of the following criteria to be met for eligibility

  • The cancer has spread to other regions of the body
  • Ongoing and soft tissue sarcoma that keeps recurring after treatment

Your application for SSA benefits must be accompanied by documentation like the following:

  • Test results that confirm the cancer diagnosis
  • The results of mammograms and other tests that indicate how far the cancer has spread
  • Records of all treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, along with your response to them and any after-effects
  • Pathology reports for any biopsies


Your doctor may be required to complete a residual functional capacity (RFC) form, which the SSA will use to evaluate the extent of your disability and determine if it prevents you from maintaining gainful employment in a field that you are trained and qualified for.

If you are applying for SSI, you must provide your financial details and be interviewed by a SSA representative.

The Compassionate Allowances Program

If your breast cancer is inoperable, has spread to other parts of your body (stage 4), or is a form of inflammatory breast cancer (which causes lymph vessels in the breast to be obstructed) you will be approved for the Compassionate Allowance program, which expedites processing of your claim. Most disability applicants have to wait for months, but qualifying for a Compassionate Allowance can get your application approved in as little as 10 days.

Receiving Benefits Without Meeting a Listing

If you are in a stage of breast cancer that does not meet a Blue Book listing, you may still be able to qualify for benefits under a medical vocational allowance. Medical records, a doctor’s report, and completed RFC will be required so that the SSA can review your physical and mental capabilities, job training, and even age to determine whether or not you qualify.

For more information about qualifying for SSA disability benefits when you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, visit the SSA’s website, go to your nearest Social Security office, or call the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213. Once the disability benefits start arriving, your financial worries can ease and allow you to focus on recovering.