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Does Cancer Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Does Cancer Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Certain forms of cancer qualify as debilitating medical conditions under the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability. You may be eligible for monthly cash payments if your cancer prevents you from being able to engage in substantial gainful activity. In other words – you may receive disability benefits if your medical impairment makes it impossible to work.

Which forms of cancer qualify for Social Security disability benefits?

Generally speaking, you must suffer from one or more of the medical or mental conditions listed in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Listing of Impairments in order to qualify as disabled.

Adult cancers are listed under the category of Malignant Neoplastic Diseases. Different criteria is used to evaluate malignant cancers in children ages 17 years and younger.

Malignant – serious and life-threatening – cancers covered in the Listing of Impairments include:

  • Soft-tissue tumors in the head and/or neck;
  • skin cancer;
  • soft-tissue sarcoma;
  • lymphoma;
  • leukemia;
  • multiple myeloma;
  • cancer of the salivary glands;
  • thyroid cancer;
  • breast cancer;
  • bone cancer (skeletal system sarcoma);
  • cancer of the maxilla, orbit or temporal fossa (relating to the eye and head);
  • spinal cancer;
  • brain cancer;
  • lung cancer;
  • cancer of the pleura or mediastinum (relating to the lungs);
  • esophageal cancer;
  • stomach cancer;
  • intestinal cancer (including small or large intestine);
  • liver cancer;
  • gallbladder cancer;
  • pancreatic cancer;
  • cancer of the kidney (or adrenal glands);
  • urinary tract cancer;
  • cancer of the bladder;
  • cancers of the female reproductive system (uterine, cervical, fallopian tubes, vagina, vulva, etc.);
  • prostate cancer;
  • testicular cancer;
  • cancer of the penis; and
  • malignant neoplastic diseases treated by bone marrow or stem cell transplants.


The SSA also will consider cancers with an unknown primary site of origin and certain cancers associated with HIV infection.

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

There are two types of Social Security disability benefits available to qualified cancer patients: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSI is a needs-based program available only to those with proven limited financial resources. SSDI is based on work history and is available to those who have earned sufficient work credits through the SSA.

The SSA employs a rigorous process in evaluating disability applicants. You must present sufficient medical evidence to prove you suffer from a qualifying, disabling medical impairment. This may include – but is not limited to – test results, X-rays and other medical records. All medical records should originate from a qualifying medical resource such as a doctor, hospital or approved clinic.

The Social Security Disability applications process can be lengthy and frustrating, particularly for those with limited resources and a clear-cut case of disability. The SSA’s Compassionate Allowances program allows qualified applicants to receive approval for benefits more quickly. Liver, adrenal, breast and bladder cancer are some of the many types of cancer that qualify for Compassionate Allowances.

Do you need help filing for disability benefits in Rhode Island? Call 866-LAW-SSDI (866-529-7734) to set up an appointment with Rob Levine & Associates.