Living with cancer comes with several sets of challenges. There are medical bills to contend with, the side effects of treatment, and, when severe, the side effects of the disease itself. For many fighting, this creates great difficulty in their normal day-to-day living routines. Between immune system compromise, potential mental health struggles, and fatigue, cancer uniquely affects one’s ability to work.
Unfortunately, many cannot afford time off work, even when dealing with serious illness. With few alternatives available, individuals turn to assistance programs to try and help meet their financial needs during a challenging period in life.
While the American government has several programs that can help these individuals, qualifying and making a case for your care is challenging. Not only are many options available, each with its own application and eligibility requirements. Read below for a quick guide on the types of disability benefits available to you and how to get help filing your claim.
Types of Disability Benefit Plans
For many individuals who suffer from cancer, there is a strong likelihood that they will not be able to return to work during and after treatment for some time. Even when they can return, they may experience challenges that were previously unproblematic, leading to an overall decrease in function.
When challenges such as these arise, social security disability benefits are a lifeline for personal finances. While there are several programs available, each addresses the needs of different populations. To ensure you are filing a disability claim with the right program, we have a quick breakdown of the four major benefit programs below.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
SSI is a needs-based system for low-income individuals who have a disability. As such, there are various eligibility requirements for this program as they relate to your present income, assets, and those of your spouse.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
SSDI is an eligibility based system that gets support through participation in social security tax (when employed by an employer) or self-employment tax (if self-employed). As such, you can apply for this program so long as you have contributed to the system. This is true regardless of your income, assets, or any shared finances of your spouse.
Whether your contributions are high enough depends on several factors such as age and income. These are calculated by how many “work credits” you have earned throughout your working career.
Medicare is a program funded by the federal government which works in ways similar to marketplace insurance policies. There are different plans available within Medicare depending on the type of coverage you need, allowing you to select the nature and extent of coverage you desire.
Generally, Medicare has an age requirement of being at least 65. However, specific disabilities receive an exemption for this, allowing younger individuals to gain this type of coverage.
Medicaid is a needs-based insurance option for low-income individuals. Similar to SSI, there are income caps involved when applying for this kind of disability benefit, and you will need to be mindful of whether or not you qualify.
Blue Book Eligibility
A common ground across most disability programs is that you must meet the disability requirements and limitations set forth by the Social Security Administration (SSA) through their Blue Book.
The Blue Book is a manual of listings that contain all applicable disabilities for which adults and children can claim benefits. However, the Blue Book is somewhat limiting in its representation of disabilities and severity of symptoms to consider those same ailments disabling.
To best meet these demands, individuals should keep documentation of their medical records, doctors’ notes, and the various ways cancer and its treatment affect your ability to function. When this information is appropriately documented, even if you don’t fit into one of the specified Blue Book categories, you can often make the case that your disability is “equal to” that found in the listings.
Proving equality of disability ultimately helps your claim have a higher chance of being accepted.
Applying for Benefits
While the benefits one can receive from any of the above programs are often life-saving for disabled individuals, the application process is fairly convoluted. This makes it challenging for individuals to successfully apply for the benefits they need, often leaving them without care.
One of the main reasons for application denials is that individuals are not aware of the various requirements imposed by the social security administration. Without extensive knowledge of the conditions listed within the Blue Book or how to frame a non-listed disability, people often receive a preventable denial. Such mistakes waste time, energy, and money cancer patients rarely have.
To learn more about the trajectory of the application process before applying for disability benefits, read our article on the topic, here.
When individuals suffering from cancer file a claim, it’s recommended they file as soon as they receive a diagnosis. There is a reason for this: the overall claims process can take well over two months, possibly result in a denial and refiling, and then still requires 5-6 months after approval to receive coverage.
However, for individuals suffering from certain forms of cancer, you may qualify for Compassionate Allowances. These allowances are a way to shorten the claims process as they identify a variety of illnesses that automatically meet the SSAs eligibility requirements for disability.
Cancers that tend to quality under this program are those where cancer:
- Spread beyond the original site
- Is recurrent despite treatment
- Is inoperable
For a list of illnesses included in the Compassionate Allowance program, visit the SSAs listing page.
Alabama Social Security Lawyer
As one can see, understanding whether you qualify for disability benefits and filing out a disability application correctly is a challenging process for those outside the legal field. When your care and well-being hangs in the balance of receiving benefits, working with a lawyer becomes necessary to minimize avoidable mistakes.
At Cook and Associates, we help our clients with a variety of legal needs, ensuring they are supported through every step of the process.
If you are unsure of whether you qualify for a particular type of disability benefit or are otherwise looking for more help on matters involving the crossroads of social security and mental health, we are just a quick phone call away.
Contact us at (334) 356-7879 for more information and get on the path to receiving the benefits you deserve.