Any cancer diagnosis is traumatic, but even a diagnosis of lung cancer does not guarantee approval for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI). If the cancer is in the early stages, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is not likely to approve a request for benefits.
However, one type of lung cancer does qualify an applicant for automatic approval of SSDI benefits regardless of stage. Patients with a diagnosis of small-cell (oat cell) cancer of the lungs will automatically qualify for approval of benefits if their medical records support their diagnosis. Proper medical documentation includes doctors’ notes, hospital records, and results of blood test, breathing tests, and imaging studies (x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs).
Patients with small-cell lung cancer also qualify for expedited approval under the SSA’s Compassionate Allowance Program. This means that they can get benefits within a few weeks rather than waiting months.
A patient whose lung cancer has spread beyond the regional lymph nodes or to other parts of the body will also qualify for SSDI regardless of the type of lung cancer. When the cancer has not spread, the decision will depend on how easily the cancer can be treated and how the cancer (and its treatment) affects the applicant’s ability to work.
Your medical records will show whether or not your cancer can be removed with surgery. If the cancer cannot be surgically removed (inoperable) or can only be partly removed (unresectable), the patient must undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatments. These treatments have debilitating side effects, so patients with inoperable or unresectable lung cancer also qualify for SSDI.
When a lung cancer returns after removal or other treatment, it is said to be recurrent. The SSA will approve SSDI benefits for patients with recurrent lung cancer.
If you do not have small-cell lung cancer, or recurrent, unresectable, or inoperable lung cancer, the SSA will evaluate your claim based on your ability to do work. Your case manager will make this decision based on your medical records, age, education, and work history. If your health changes during the SSDI application process, it is important that you send the SSA your updated medical records. Those who don’t initially qualify for SSDI often qualify if their condition worsens.
Do you have additional questions about applying for SSDI in Massachusetts? Get your free copy of Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability, or contact the disability lawyers at Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.