Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in the U.S. and the leading cause of cancer death. However, you might be surprised to learn that a diagnosis of lung cancer is not enough to guarantee that you will qualify for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI). Approval for SSDI for lung cancer depends on the type of cancer and the stage of cancer progression.
Lung cancer occurs when there is uncontrolled cell growth in lung tissue. There are two major types of lung cancer:
- Small-cell lung cancer: Small-cell lung cancer is an aggressive and quick-growing cancer. It is also called oat cell lung cancer or oat cell carcinoma.
- Non-small-cell lung cancer: Non-small-cell lung cancers spread more slowly and are easier to treat than small-cell cancers. This group of cancers accounts for 87 percent of diagnosed lung cancers and includes include squamous cell carcinoma, large cell carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma.
There may be no symptoms in the early stages. As the cancer progresses, the patient may experience any of the following symptoms:
- Weight loss
- Persistent cough
- Coughing up blood
- Constant chest pain
- Breathing difficulties
- Frequent lung infections
Applying for Disability with Lung Cancer
The Social Security Administration includes lung cancer in its listing of impairments that qualify for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI). In order to qualify for SSDI under disability listing 13.14: Lung Cancer, an applicant must meet the requirements for SSDI and have a diagnosis of one of the following:
- Small-cell lung cancer
- Non-small-cell lung cancer that cannot be completely removed through surgery (inoperable or unresectable), that has spread beyond the hilar lymph nodes (metastasized), or that has recurred after treatment (recurrent)
- Cancer in the superior sulcus that remains after more than one type of treatment (chemotherapy or radiation or surgery)
If you meet the work requirements for SSDI and one of the conditions of listing 13.14, you will be automatically approved for SSDI for lung cancer. If you don’t meet either of these criteria, you may still qualify for SSDI under a medical-vocational listing.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) examiner will look at your “residual functional capacity” (RFC) and determine whether there is any type of full-time work that you can do given the limitations of your disability, and your age, education, and experience. This decision will be based on your medical records, your work history, your own description of how your symptoms limit your ability to function at home and at work, and (possibly) the statements of others familiar with your situation. The SSA may ask you to take additional medical tests. There is no charge for any SSA-required doctor visits.
It is important that you provide complete medical records, including any evidence of other medical problems. Ask your doctor to include any x-rays and the results of any breathing tests. The SSA will need a complete picture of your health.
More About Lung Cancer SSDI Applications
When answering questions about your condition and your capabilities, be honest. Try to explain exactly how your lung cancer and other disabilities affect your capacity to work and participate in life activities. You can learn more about filling out your SSDI application in Boston disability lawyer John Keefe’s book, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim.
If you are struggling with your application, our New England SSDI attorneys can help. We assist with every part of the SSDI application process from filling out form to appeals. To learn more, or to schedule a free case evaluation, contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.