Hundreds of thousands of Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer and mesothelioma every year, which can make it impossible to earn a living. For this reason, the Social Security Administration offers disability benefits to patients with severe illnesses and injuries. Society security lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm help clients through the process of applying for SSI or SSDI.
The list of diseases and injuries the government considers disabling are detailed in the Blue Book of impairment. The Blue Books includes malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer, and pulmonary insufficiency (including asbestosis). This is just one part of how Social Security determine if someone is disabled; for adults, it also considers past work experience, age, education, severity of medical condition, and work skills.
Benefits can come from one of two programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). To be eligible for one of these programs, cancer patients must prove:
1. A confirmed medical cancer diagnosis 2. Treatment will last or has lasted at least one year 3. The patient is unable to work because of their illness
It is also helpful to include medical history, biopsy results, and reports from surgical procedures. Unfortunately, not all cancer patients are guaranteed SSDI benefits, and it is common for initial claims to be denied.
Those applying for SSDI must have paid an adequate amount of Social Security taxes. Conversely, applicants who receive an income of more than $1,090 per month may not apply for SSDI, though there is an exception for blind individuals.
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SSI benefits are designed to help supplement existing income, applying to patients or families with very low incomes and limited assets. Eligible applicants must be disabled, over the age of 65 and/or blind, and with income and assets below a certain level. SSI benefits are paid through a monthly income, and the amount can vary from year to year.
There are several other ways cancer patients can receive disability benefits, including through your employer and through federal grant programs. More information can be found here. Certain patients with very severe illnesses, such as mesothelioma, may speed up their application process under the Compassionate Allowances program.
Many types of conditions qualify for the Compassionate Allowances program, including cancers, traumatic brain injury, early-onset Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune diseases. A full list can be found here.
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Pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, and small cell lung cancer all quality for the Compassionate Allowances program. Although mesothelioma rates are increasing, it is still a relatively rare cancer, which leads to misdiagnoses. Mesothelioma tumors and symptoms resemble many other conditions, so even highly trained pathologists can miss detection. The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, however, so anyone with a history of asbestos exposure should seek treatment and legal assistance immediately.
For those grappling with a mesothelioma diagnosis, we offer a free book that can answer an array of common questions.101 Questions & Answers about Mesothelioma can be ordered here at absolutely no cost to you.
Processing and Denials
Most disability claims are processed through local Social Security Administration (SSA) offices and State agencies. If your claim is denied you may submit an appeal, which goes through a State Disability Determination Service or an administrative law judge. These judges work in the SSA’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. Applications can be made in person, by mail, online, or by telephone.
Medical evidence can be quite complex for cancer applicants. In addition to the records mentioned above, applications should also include pathologist findings, documentation of metastatic tumors, microscopic examinations or surgically-removed tissue, and other records.
If approved, the SSA calculates the benefit amount and starts paying benefits. Many applicants that are denied the first time are approved after an appeal. Our team of social security disability lawyers has been helping clients through this process for 30 years. We provide free legal consultations to seriously injured or sickened clients nationwide.