elderly woman have heart disease sitting on wheelchair

Every year, thousands of people file claims for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The annual number of awards for disabled workers has increased from 417,000 in 1979 to 679,000 in 2019. The “Blue Book” is SSA’s listing of impairments that are severe enough to prevent someone from working. Its formal title is Disability Evaluation Under Social Security. The Blue Book outlines the medical criteria necessary for determining whether a person is disabled under SSA’s regulations. 

This post discusses cancer and depression, two medical conditions that can impact many other body systems. Before discussing these diseases, let us outline important details that every applicant should know.

  • Determining the value of benefits – If you are found eligible, your benefit amount will be based on your lifetime earnings. It is generally equal to the amount that an applicant would receive from Social Security at their full retirement age. As of May 2021, the average Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) monthly benefit was $1,147.

An important thing to note here is that your SSDI benefits are automatically converted to Social Security retirement benefits once you reach your full retirement age. That means you cannot receive both benefits concurrently.

There are certain circumstances where your benefits may be reduced. For instance, if you are getting other state or federal benefits, your SSDI may be reduced.

  • Determining eligibility – There are specific criteria and conditions that must be met to establish entitlement to Social Security benefits. Proving eligibility is not easy. The administration rejects a majority of first time applications for SSDI. 
  • Basic SSDI qualifications – Some basic qualifications include:
  • An applicant must be younger than their full retirement age.
  • An applicant must have enough Social Security work credits. Work credits needed to qualify for disability benefits depend on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. Younger workers may qualify with fewer credits under some circumstances.
  • The applicant’s medical condition has to be so severe that they are incapable of working for at least one year or result in death.
  • Additionally, an applicant cannot earn more than a minimal amount of money in a month. Your spouse’s assets or income are not taken into consideration for this purpose.

There are some medical conditions that are by definition disabling. You can review the official website of SSA for a list of qualifying medical conditions. If you have a disabling condition that meets the criteria on the list, you should consider applying for benefits. 

If you are confused or unsure about whether your condition would qualify for benefits, you can contact an experienced attorney for assistance.

You will need medical documentation to prove the criteria has been met first. Once you have relevant medical documentation of your disability, you can submit an application either online, by mail, or at a local Social Security office. Sometimes it takes several months to receive a decision. If you have already applied and have been denied, contact an attorney to initiate the appeal process as soon as possible.

Now, let us begin with some information about how cancer and depression are evaluated by SSA.

Cancer

Millions of Americans are diagnosed with cancer every year. In 2020, 1.8 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. Of those, 606,520 people are estimated to die from the disease. This disease is indeed life-threatening. Many people fighting cancer are unable to return to work. The SSA has stringent rules that govern disability eligibility for cancer. 

Not All Forms of Cancer Qualify for Benefits

The SSA adjudicators examine the severity of cancer before approving any application. There are more than 200 types of cancers that affect human health. Among them are a few which are minimally invasive and can be cured with treatment. It is helpful to know whether a cancer you are fighting is covered by Social Security disability benefits.

Some forms of cancer are extremely dangerous and life-threatening. Blood cancer, brain cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, ovary cancer, and others can be life-threatening. Treatment for these and other types of cancer can also be debilitating. 

Cancer is draining both mentally and physically. A diagnosis of cancer can also cause financial hardship. For example, if a family member who is diagnosed with cancer was the primary breadwinner, the family may not only experience distress about the health of their loved one, but will be without their primary source of income.

A cancer survivor may be unable to continue working for various reasons. Even after they fully recover, they may not be able to return to their prior job. This is because the treatment can be as aggressive as the disease. It may lead to partial or full disability for a person even after the cancer has been controlled or removed. If your specific diagnosis of cancer is not included in the Blue Book, you can still establish entitlement to benefits based on other criteria.

  • When cancer has spread to other parts of the body – Malignant cells can invade and destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body. This is often seen in women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. After removing and successfully treating breast cancer, cancerous cells remaining in the body can spread over time to other parts of the body. If this happens, they may be eligible for Disability For Cancer patients.
  • When there are severe side effects of cancer treatment – Chemotherapy and radiation are hard on the human body. Treatment has a lasting effect on human health that can itself cause mental and physical disability. If cancer treatment causes someone to remain disabled for at least 12 months, they may be entitled to benefits.
  • Long-term ailments prevalent from cancer treatment – Long-term effects of cancer treatment can be visible years after treatment ends. If your current disabling condition is linked with your cancer treatment, you may have a higher chance of a successful claim.

The Social Security disability claims process is complex and time consuming. An attorney can gather relevant medical documentation, complete all applicable forms, submit the application to the program office, and represent you in any follow-on inquiries or hearings. You do not have to bear the burden of filing for disability benefits while being treated for cancer. Let a knowledgeable attorney do the work on your behalf.

Depression

The Social Security Administration has defined disability under 20 CFR § 404.1505(a). “The law defines disability as the inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 

Depression is a  medical condition that can affect our mental health in such a way that it is debilitating in accordance with SSA’s definition. There are several aspects of this disease that are severe and lead to disability. Depression can also lead to other conditions that affect other parts of the body, especially if you have been coping with depression for a long time.

Depression is also considered a psychiatric disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The important thing to know is that a psychiatric disorder like depression can be a covered disability entitled to SSDI or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, if qualifying criteria is supported by medical evidence. You can apply for disability for depression with the help of a competent disability attorney.

Depression is prevalent around the world. The following symptoms are common among those suffering from depression and other mental health disorders:

  •  Feeling low all the time without any reason
  •  Being sad or uncontrollably emotional 
  •  Emotional breakdowns
  •  Feeling guilty or worthless unnecessarily.
  •  Being anxious about discussing anything with anybody
  •  Afraid to ask for help for anything
  •  Sudden panic or anxiety attacks.
  • Feeling like crying all of the time.
  • Disordered eating, such as eating to excess uncontrollably or lack of appetite (which can lead to other health conditions like obesity or malnutrition)
  •  Loss of concentration
  •  Memory loss
  •  Self-harm and suicidal thoughts

Depression is a psychological problem that can lead to other emotional or physical problems. Constant stress or sudden panic attacks are hazardous and can cripple anyone after a while. It can be difficult to maintain employment when dealing with a serious psychological condition like depression.

Understanding Eligibility Criteria is Crucial

The percentage of patients experiencing depression has increased drastically over the last decade.

In general, eligibility for SSDI requires meeting the following conditions:

  • A diagnosed medical condition that meets SSA’s definition of disability
  • The medical condition has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or will result in death
  • You must have worked long enough and recently enough in accordance with Social Security rules

In general, eligibility for SSI requires meeting the following conditions:

  • Aged (age 65 or older); or
  • Blind; or
  • Disabled; 

And, who:

  • has limited income; and
  • has limited resources; and
  • is a U.S. citizen or national, or in one of certain categories of aliens;

At Khattar Law, PC you can talk to a trustworthy and effective Dallas Disability Lawyer that will stand by your side throughout the legal process. We have substantial experience handling different types of disability claims and appeals. Schedule an appointment and discuss your concerns without further ado.