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Keefe Disability Law
Social Security Disability & Supplemental Security Income
Toll Free 888-904-6847
Call 508-283-5500
Fax 508-309-6954

When You Can’t Work: Breast Cancer and Your SSDI Benefits

When you were first diagnosed with cancer, the world stopped. When it started again, you had questions. You had questions for your doctor about treatment, about survival rates, and your own chances. And, you had questions that your doctor couldn’t answer. Who would pay for treatment? Would you be able to work? What would happen if you couldn’t work?

Most people with breast cancer are able to continue working with time off for treatment. But, those with advanced or recurrent breast cancer may need to stop working and concentrate on treatment. This can be tough. You and your family need your income to make ends meet. Social Security benefits can help.

You may already know that a portion of each paycheck goes to Social Security. That money is available when you retire, but it is also there if you become too disabled to work. However, there are qualifications.

To receive Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits, you must be unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to either last at least one year or result in death. To qualify for SSDI benefits for breast cancer, your cancer must meet one of the following criteria:

  1. Locally advanced breast cancer:
    • Tumors greater than 5 mm in diameter
    • Cancer that extends into the skin, the muscle, or the chest wall
    • Cancer that involves multiple lymph nodes
    • Inflammatory breast cancer
  2. Breast cancer that has spread to at least 10 underarm lymph nodes or to lymph nodes above or below the collarbone
  3. Breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body
  4. Recurrent breast cancer (local recurrences that respond to treatment may not qualify)

If you have stage 4 breast cancer or breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body and cannot be removed by surgery or other methods, you may qualify for fast track approval under the Social Security Administration’s Compassionate Allowances program.

To receive SSDI benefits, you must be able to provide documentation of your diagnosis and treatment. You will need copies of:

  • Your doctor’s notes
  • Your oncologist’s reports
  • Lab test results
  • Biopsy records
  • Pathology reports
  • Treatment records from a hospital or clinic

You will also need a letter from your oncologist describing how your disease or your treatment prevents you from being able to work for pay.

In addition to the physical requirements, there are financial requirements for Social Security disability benefits. To qualify for SSDI, you must also have been working for at least five years of the 10-year period before your breast cancer was diagnosed.

If you do not qualify for SSDI, you may qualify for Social Security Impairment (SSI) benefits.

Our advice? Get help. Most SSDI applications are rejected. But, a rejection doesn’t mean that you do not qualify for disability benefits. Most rejections are based on inadequate documentation. To learn more, request a free copy of Massachusetts disability lawyer John Keefe’s book titled Unlocking the Mystery –The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process, or contact Keefe disability Law at 888-904-6847.


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