When you’re faced with a debilitating condition such as inoperable breast cancer, the last thing you need is a long wait to start collecting Social Security disability benefits. In the past, those who suffered with breast cancer or any other disabling condition faced a long road ahead with the Social Security disability system before they could be approved for benefits.
Sometimes the system moves so slowly that it can be hard to remember that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is there to help you, not to make your life more difficult. In their defense, however, the SSA deals with literally millions of disability cases every year, and the backlog can be incredible at times. Still, understanding why Social Security disability cases often take three to six months before they’re even looked at doesn’t make things any better for you while you’re trying to survive breast cancer.
To make matters worse, most Social Security disability cases are turned down (approximately 70%) during the initial claim stage. The appeals process 18 months to several years before approval. If you have inoperable or unresectable breast cancer, it goes without saying that you may not have several years to fight the system.
Fortunately, breast cancer is one of the 88 conditions the Social Security listed as qualifying for the Compassionate Allowances program. The Compassionate Allowances program was started in 2008 and is designed to help people with obviously debilitating conditions, such as inoperable breast cancer, by expediting the approval process considerably.
In most cases, as long as the medical paperwork is in order, those who qualify for a Compassionate Allowance will be approved for Social Security disability benefits in about three weeks, and will start actually collecting Social Security disability benefit payments shortly afterwards.
Breast Cancer - Condition and Symptoms
Also called Stage IV breast cancer, breast cancer which is inoperable, unresectable or which includes distant metastases is deemed to automatically meet the SSA’s listing of impairments requirements. Because of this, it is included amongst the 88 conditions which qualify for compassionate allowances.
Breast cancer is most often diagnosed with a mammogram or clinical breast exam, though ultrasound, biopsy and MRI are also used in the diagnostic process. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy are among the treatment options. In most cases, a combination of surgery and radiation or chemotherapy is utilized.
When breast cancer is deemed to be inoperable or when surgery has failed to remove all of the cancerous tissue, hormonal therapy and chemotherapy are often used to deal with the effects of breast cancer, but the survival rate is low. A mere 20% survive five years or more with inoperable breast cancer.
Filing for Social Security Disability with Breast Cancer
While a diagnosis of breast cancer is not always the death sentence it once was, facing Stage IV breast cancer can be a difficult experience. It certainly makes it very difficult to continue with any kind of substantial gainful activity. Often, the treatment regimen itself can make it very difficult to accomplish any meaningful amount of work due to the fatigue your body experiences as a result of the radiation or chemotherapy.
This can add a high level of stress, particularly if you count on your income from work, as most people do. Fortunately, the Social Security disability system is designed to help ease you financial burdens during times of serious long term disability.
The fact that inoperable breast cancer qualifies you for Compassionate Allowance makes it even more important to make sure all of your paperwork, especially the medical reports, is complete and correct. To qualify for the Compassionate Allowance program, your records must clearly indicate that your breast cancer meets the requirements. More specifically, your reports should ideally contain an operative report (for unresectable cancer) or a pathology report (for inoperable cancer). If these reports are unavailable, the SSA will generally accept your doctor’s stated opinion that your cancer is unresectable or inoperable, especially if he details the reasons for his diagnosis.
Your Breast Cancer Social Security Disability Case
Even though your condition clearly qualifies for a Compassionate Allowance, it can be a good idea to have your case reviewed by a Social Security disability lawyer. The last thing you want is to have your case passed over for a compassionate allowance because some piece of necessary information wasn’t included in your claim form or the medical records. An experienced Social Security lawyer can catch these kinds of things before you file your claim and save you time and money.
Ultimately, you won’t have much trouble being approved given your condition. The question really is more a matter of whether your initial application will be approved and placed into the Compassionate Allowance program (where it belongs) so that you can start receiving benefits right away.