1. Question: What is lung cancer?
2. Question: How do you get it and who is at risk?
3. Question: What to consider if diagnosed with lung cancer?
4. Question: What are the statistics?
5. Question: Does lung cancer hurt? How will you feel?
6. Question: What types of tests will you need to incur?
7. Question: What are the statistics to beat lung cancer?
8. Question: What are the types of lung cancer?
9. Question: Famous people with lung cancer?
10. Question: Optimism?
11. Question: How and who can I reach out to for help?
12. Question: What medications are available for lung cancer?
13. Question: Do shock warnings help in the fight for lung cancer?
Lung cancer is the second-most commonly diagnosed cancer in the US, and it’s one of the most challenging cancers to treat. If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to go to work as usual. If your lung cancer complications or chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and other treatments will keep you from you from working for at least 12 months, you might be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers these monthly resources to millions of Americans in need.
Medically Qualifying with Lung Cancer
Every time the SSA receives an application for disability benefits due to lung cancer, it will compare your cancer’s progression to its medical guide of qualifying conditions known as the Blue Book. Under Blue Book Section 13.14, your lung cancer will medically qualify if one of the following criteria is met:
- You do not have small-cell cancer, but:
- Your cancer is inoperable, OR
- Your cancer has returned despite treatment, OR
- Your cancer has spread beyond the lung or to the hilar nodes (lymph nodes that connect lungs to cardiovascular system)
- You have small-cell lung cancer. Because small-cell lung cancer is aggressive, you’ll automatically medically qualify with a small-cell lung cancer diagnosis.
The Blue Book was written for medical professionals, so if you’re not sure if you qualify, you can discuss the listing with your oncologist. The entire Blue Book is available online to review.
Compassionate Allowances and Lung Cancer
Some conditions are clearly disabling and worthy of an expedited review. These qualifying conditions are included on a list known as “Compassionate Allowances.” If you meet any of the above medical qualifications for lung cancer, you will also automatically qualify for a Compassionate Allowance, meaning that instead of waiting for 5+ months to be approved, your claim could be approved in as little as 10 days.
Unfortunately, that’s where the benefits of qualifying for a Compassionate Allowance end. You will not begin receiving benefits in 10 days, and will instead have to wait the full five months. You also will not qualify for Medicare until two full years after “the date at which you became disabled,” which is not necessarily the day that you applied, but the point at which your lung cancer became so advanced you could not work. This may be the date at which you were diagnosed.
Qualifying Without the Blue Book
If you have been diagnosed at a less-advanced stage of lung cancer, it is still possible for you to qualify for disability benefits. The SSA approved thousands of applicants every year through what’s called a Medical Vocational Allowance. Under this type of approval, the SSA acknowledges that although you do not meet a Blue Book listing, your disability prevents you from performing any work that you’re qualified for.
The SSA’s first step of determining whether you qualify under a Medical Vocational Allowance will be evaluating how much physical labor you can do based on your lung cancer complications or its treatments. There are four classifications for the amount of work you can do:
- Sedentary work: Usually seated, cannot lift more than 10lbs
- Light work: Often seated, cannot lift more than 20lbs
- Medium work: Can lift 50lbs, frequently carries 25lbs
- Heavy work: Can lift 100lbs at a time, frequently carries 50lbs
- Very heavy work: Lifts 100+lbs at once
After determining how much you can physically do during your lung cancer treatment, the SSA will compare your working ability to the exertion requirements of any job you have the ability to work. Your work history will play a big role in meeting a listing under a Medical Vocational Allowance—The more physical your work requirements, the higher your odds of approval. People without college degrees will also have an easier time qualifying under a Medical Vocational Allowance, as the SSA will believe degree-holders will have an easier time taking a desk job. Here’s a hypothetical example:
John is a 55-year-old construction manager and has worked on sites all his life. He’s been diagnosed with Stage IIB lung cancer and will require 12+ months of chemotherapy. His job requires that he needs to perform medium work at a bare minimum, but due to the nausea and other side effects of chemo, he’ll only be able to perform sedentary work. The SSA approves his claim because John has no work experience other than construction jobs.
Tim is also a construction worker, but he’s 23 years old and he took this job to pay off his student loans. He has a degree in architecture and hopes to become an architect someday. He’s diagnosed with Stage IIB lung cancer and is also found to only be able to perform sedentary work. While he’s unable to work at the construction site, the SSA denies his claim because his recently earned college degree gave him the experience to work as a graphic designer or vocational role in an architecture firm. He’s also young, meaning he’ll be more likely to be retrained for any sedentary job.
How to Start an Application Relying on a Medical Vocational Allowance?
There’s one form you’ll definitely need to qualify under a Medical Vocational Allowance: a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form. Your doctor or oncologist can fill this out before you submit your application.
An RFC will evaluate exactly how much physical labor you can do: How much weight you can lift, how long you can sit or stand, if you can walk for long periods of time, etc. It also has a “notes” section where your oncologist can fill out precisely how your lung cancer treatments will keep you from performing any work. Be sure to ask your doctor to be as thorough as possible—A primary physician’s recommendations go a long way in getting your disability application approved.
An RFC is available online for you to download for your physician. If you don’t have your doctor fill one out, an SSA disability examiner can perform one on his or her behalf, but you’ll have a significantly higher chance of qualifying if your doctor completes the paperwork for you.
Starting Your Social Security Application
The majority of applicants can start and finish the application for disability benefits online. If you’d prefer to apply in person, that’s fine too—There are more than 1,300 Social Security offices across the country. Don’t just drop in and hope to get an appointment though! You’ll need to schedule one ahead of time by calling the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213.
If you meet any of the Blue Book listings, your claim will be approved within a couple of weeks. If you’re applying for a Medical Vocational Allowance, you’ll need to wait for about five months to hear back from the SSA. You can always check the status of your claim online by making a My Social Security account.