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Social Security Disability Insurance For Breast Cancer

What To Do When Your Disease or Your Treatment Gets In The Way of Your Work


Updated July 07, 2010

Advanced or recurrent breast cancer may be enough of a disability that you decide to stop working and concentrate on treatment. The loss of income from your job may have you looking for financial help. If you qualify, you may be able to receive Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits. This program is not the same as the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, but some patients may apply for both types of benefits.

How The Social Security Administration Defines Breast Cancer as a Disability

The Social Security Administration (SSA) pays benefits to people who are unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or may result in death. SSA changed its list of qualifying impairments on November 5, 2009 to include metastatic breast cancer. Here's how Social Security specifies the diagnosis of breast cancer that qualifies for disability payments:

  • Locally advanced breast cancer (inflammatory breast cancer, tumor of any size that extends directly to the chest wall or skin, tumor of any size with metastases to the internal mammary lymph nodes on the same side as the tumor.)
  • Breast cancer that has spread to lymph nodes above or below the collarbone, to 10 or more underarm lymph nodes, or with metastases to other parts of the body.
  • Recurrent breast cancer, except for local recurrence that responds well to treatment.

Meeting The Requirements For SSDI Benefits

You must be able to provide medical documentation of your diagnosis and treatment. Having symptoms of breast cancer won't qualify you - you may be asked for copies of pathology reports, lab test results, treatment records from your clinic or hospital, or a letter from your oncologist. The documentation must show that your disease or your treatment disables you enough to make you unable to work.

You must also meet financial requirements for Social Security disability benefits. If you have been working and have contributed to the Social Security fund during your working life, you must also have been working for five years out of the ten-year period before you become disabled by breast cancer. But if you were already living with a disability and had extremely limited financial means and assets (not including your home and one car) you may qualify for Social Security Impairment (SSI) benefits.

Get Expert Help With Social Security Disability Insurance

If you are unsure whether or not you qualify for these benefits, call your local SSA office and explain your situation. The staff there can guide you and answer your questions in more detail and show you how to proceed. There is a five-step process that will determine if your condition disables you enough to prevent gainful employment. The outcome of the process must result in a proven claim of being unable to work at your present occupation or any alternate job, in order to qualify you for these benefits. You could also consult an attorney that specializes in Social Security claims for help with preparing your case.


Disability Evaluation Under Social Security (Blue Book- September 2008). 13.00 Malignant Neoplastic Diseases - Adult. 13.10 Breast. Social Security Online. Accessed July 6, 2010.

Disability Evaluation Under Social Security (Blue Book- September 2008). Part II - Evidentiary Requirements. Social Security Online. Accessed July 6, 2010.

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