What Do I Need to Know about Social Security Disability Benefits and Cancer?

Do you have a cancer diagnosis? Are you no longer able to work? You may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers financial assistance in the form of Social Security Disability benefits. A cancer diagnosis does not automatically make you eligible for SSA benefits. You have to apply. Here is what you need to know about Social Security Disability benefits and cancer:

  • Social Security Administration (SSA) and Social Security Disability benefits
    • To qualify, you must meet the SSA’s definition of disability.
      • A cancer diagnosis does not automatically meet the SSA’s definition of disability.
      • The SSA processes cancer disability claims on a case by case basis.
      • You must prove you cannot work for at least one year because of your diagnosis.
      • You need proof from your doctor that you cannot work.
      • People who have stem cell or bone marrow transplants automatically meet the definition.
    • In cases of advanced stage cancer, you may qualify for “Compassionate Allowance.”
    • Apply as soon as possible. The SAA denies most disability claims at first. You can appeal the decision.
    • You can fill out the forms online at http://www.ssa.gov/ or at your local Social Security Office.

The SSA offers two types of disability programs.

  1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
    • You must have worked jobs in which you paid Social Security taxes.
    • You must meet the SSA’s definition of disability.
    • People approved for SSDI are eligible for Medicare after a two year waiting period.
    • SSDI is not health insurance.
  1. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
    • SSI is a needs-based program.  You must prove your income and assets are below the limit.
    • You do not need work credits to qualify.
    • You must meet the SSA’s definition of disability.
    • SSI is also available for individuals over 65 without a disability who meet the financial need requirement.
    • People approved for SSI automatically qualify for Medicaid.
    • In some cases, you may qualify for both SSDI and SSI.
    • SSI is not health insurance.

To check your eligibility for all SSA programs, use the Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool (BEST) at http://www.benefits.gov/ssa. Based on your answers, this tool lists benefits you may be eligible to receive. This tool does not guarantee approval.