Qualifying for Social Security Benefits with Cancer

cancer, you may be concerned about making ends meet financially if you’ll be out of work while going through chemotherapy and other treatments. Fortunately, there could be resources available for you and your family. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers disability benefits for people in need. Thousands of people receive disability benefits after a cancer diagnosis every year.

Medically Qualifying for Disability Benefits with Cancer

A cancer diagnosis alone will not qualify for disability benefits. The SSA will need evidence that you’ll be out of work for at least 12 months due to your cancer’s complications or treatment, or that your cancer is terminal.
Every form of cancer will qualify differently. For example, esophageal cancer will qualify with just a diagnosis, as will any form of cancer that has spread to another organ. Breast cancer, on the other hand, usually need to be advanced to Stage III-B or further to qualify.  Some cancers that are highly treatable, such as prostate cancer, will not qualify unless they’ve spread to another organ, returned despite treatment, or are an aggressive form of cancer, such as small-cell cancer.
The SSA uses its own medical guide known as the Blue Book to evaluate your specific cancer diagnosis. The entire Blue Book can be found online, so be sure to review it with your doctor to determine if you’ll medically qualify.

Compassionate Allowances and Social Security

The average Social Security disability claim takes about five months to be approved, but sometimes up to 2 years if your initial application is denied. Fortunately, this is not the case for people with advanced forms of cancer. The SSA started its Compassionate Allowance initiative in 2008 to help people with clearly disabling conditions get approved for the resources they need quickly. Cancers that will qualify as a Compassionate Allowance with just a diagnosis include:

  • Esophageal cancer
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Inflammatory breast cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Salivary and sinonasal cancers
  • Thyroid cancer

If you don’t have one of the above diagnoses, you could still qualify for a Compassionate Allowance. So long as one of the following is true, your claim will be expedited:

  • Your cancer has returned despite treatment (3 months or more usually qualifies)
  • Your cancer is inoperable
  • Your cancer has spread to other organs.

There are no additional steps you need to take when filling out your Social Security application when applying with a Compassionate Allowance, nor is there any additional paperwork for you to fill out. When you submit your application, the SSA will automatically flag your application for expedited review. Instead of waiting for 5+ months to hear back from the SSA, you could be approved in as little as 10 days.

Starting Your Disability Application

Most applicants can complete the entire Social Security application entirely online. This is the easiest way to apply for disability benefits, as you can save your progress and complete the application at a later date.
If you’d prefer to apply in person, you’ll need to make an appointment with a Social Security field office. There are more than 1,300 offices nationwide, and every state has at least four offices. Regardless of how you apply, be sure to fill out your application as carefully and thoroughly as possible.


Cancer Support Community North Texas:
Medical Evidence:
Blue Book:
Compassionate Allowances:
Local Offices:
Apply Online:
Disability Benefits Help is an independent organization, not affiliated with the Social Security Administration, dedicated to helping people of all ages receive Social Security disability benefits. If you have any questions on how to qualify with cancer or about the disability process in general, feel free to reach out to their team at
For more cancer support resources, please visit our Resource & Referrals page here or contact our Resource Specialist, Patricia Callahan.]]>

Breakfast with Santa

Letters to Santa MailboxesGavin, who lost his mom to cancer when he was young, wanted to use his Eagle Scout Project to support and encourage other kids whose families have been impacted by the disease. He decided to organize a toy drive so that each child who came to CSCNT’s annual Breakfast with Santa would receive a surprise from the man in the red suit. With the help of his Boy Scout troop, he created collection boxes that he left with local businesses and schools, and he made three exquisite mailboxes for letters to Santa that were placed in each CSCNT clubhouse. Behind the scenes, CSCNT staff called the parents and grandparents of the kids involved in our “Noogieland” support program to request gift ideas. Kids opening presentsAfter the toy drive was completed, the presents were taken to the CSCNT admin offices where volunteers from SMU and the Junior League of Dallas carefully selected and wrapped a present for each child based on the list of interests provided by their parents. The morning of the party, Gavin, his Boy Scouts troop and Troop Leader, his family, and Cancer Support Community staff and Board Members arrived to cook breakfast and make sure the clubhouse was ready for Santa! Gavin’s Dad, Scott, put on the red suit as the Boy Scouts served pancakes, bacon, eggs, and fruit to the families as they arrived. After a morning filled with delicious food and fun holiday crafts, the kids gathered in the “living room” where the tree and presents were cheerily displayed. Santa gave each child their gift and the excitement of unwrapping and opening presents ensued! Santa talks with familyGavin’s toy drive was so successful that he was not only able to provide toys for each child at Breakfast with Santa, but also for the children who came to all the holiday parties at each of the three Cancer Support Community locations in North Texas. The extra toys and the donated gift cards provided additional support for the holiday season for families in the CSCNT community who have had a difficult year financially. Gavin’s project united the efforts of his Boy Scout troop, the philanthropy of local businesses and schools, and the donated time of SMU students and Junior League of Dallas volunteers to provide a joyful and magical holiday party for families and kids that have experienced the impact of cancer this year. If you have been impacted by cancer and would like to learn how to become involved at CSCNT, you can learn more here or email us at   Boy Scouts serve breakfastChristmas tree with presents at cancer support community]]>

Co Pay Assistance

Co-Pay Assistance are programs that help cover the cost of some medications. Typically, the programs are funded through nonprofits or directly via the pharmaceutical companies.  There are criteria you have to meet to qualify for help.

  • Usually, have to have health insurance
  • Be within 400 to 500% of Federal Poverty Guidelines
  • Provide proof of income for all the in the household.
  • Provide proof of medication you are taking (usually a doctor’s note)

Most patients will learn about co-pay assistance in the oncology clinic. If there is a financial counselor available they will help patients to see if there is funding available. The program acts like a secondary insurance and will pay for the cost of the medicine after the main insurance is processed.

In some cases, despite meeting criteria, grants may be out of funds when you apply. When this occurs you may have to check back periodically to see when the grant opens again. In an effort to minimize the amount of time you might spend checking, PAN Foundation created a program where you can register and be notified when the funding becomes available. FundFinder helps you quickly find financial assistance from charitable foundations.  There are several medical illnesses in addition to cancer that offer assistance.  Anyone can register, for more information click on the link below.

FundFinder-Pan Foundation

La Asistencia de copago es un programa que ayuda a cubrir el costo de algunos medicamentos. Normalmente, los programas se financian a través de organizaciones sin fines de lucro o directamente a través de las compañías farmacéuticas. Hay criterios que debe cumplir para calificar para ayuda.

  • Generalmente tienen que tener seguro de salud.
  • Estar dentro del 400 a 500% de las pautas federales de pobreza
  • Proporcionar comprobante de ingresos para todos los miembros del hogar.
  • Proporcionar prueba de la medicación que está tomando (generalmente una nota del médico)

La mayoría de los pacientes aprenderán sobre la asistencia con copagos en la clínica de oncología. Si hay un asesor financiero disponible, ayudarán a los pacientes a ver si hay fondos disponibles. El programa actúa como un seguro secundario y pagará el costo del medicamento una vez que se haya procesado el seguro principal.

En algunos casos, a pesar de cumplir con los criterios, las subvenciones pueden quedar sin fondos cuando usted solicita. Cuando esto ocurra, es posible que deba revisar periódicamente para ver cuándo se abre nuevamente la subvención. En un esfuerzo por minimizar la cantidad de tiempo que podría dedicar a la verificación, la Fundación PAN creó un programa en el que puede registrarse y recibir una notificación cuando la financiación esté disponible. FundFinder ayuda a encontrar rápidamente la ayuda financiera de fundaciones de caridad. Hay varias


Cancer and Nutrition

Nutrition and Diet information is often one of the most top requested items when a cancer diagnosis occurs. I encourage patients to check with the oncologist offices to see if they can be referred to a registered dietician that can address their specific needs.  According to Eat Right Pro, a Registered Dietitian are food and nutrition experts who can translate the science of nutrition into practical solutions for healthy living. They use evidence-based information to provide education. A referral to a dietician is something that can be filed through your health insurance, if you have met your out of pocket max there may not be a cost to see the dietician.  I recently discovered a great online resource that I want to share.  Cancer Dietitian This website was created by a Registered Dietitian. Julie Landford is a registered dietitian, licensed nutritionist and board-certified specialist in oncology nutrition with over 10 years’ experience working in oncology. Her website has some of the following resources:

  • Link to Podcasts about nutrition
  • Recipes
  • Webinars
  • Tips on books and reading material

Cáncer y Nutrición

La información sobre nutrición y dieta suele ser uno de los elementos más solicitados cuando se produce un diagnóstico de cáncer. Recomiendo a los pacientes que consulten con los consultorios oncólogos para ver si pueden ser derivados a un dietista registrado que pueda atender sus necesidades específicas. Según Eat Right Pro, un dietista registrado son expertos en alimentación y nutrición que pueden traducir la ciencia de la nutrición en soluciones prácticas para una vida saludable. Utilizan información basada en la evidencia para proporcionar educación. Una derivación a un dietista es algo que puede archivarse a través de su seguro de salud. Si ha cumplido con su desembolso máximo, es posible que no haya un costo para ver al dietista. Recientemente descubrí un gran recurso en línea que quiero compartir. Cancer Dietitian Esta página web fue creada por un dietista registrado. Julie Landford, es una dietista registrada, nutricionista con licencia y especialista en nutrición oncológica certificada, con más de 10 años de experiencia trabajando en oncología. Su página web tiene algunos de los siguientes recursos:
  • Enlace a podcasts sobre nutrición. 
  • Recetas 
  • Webinars  
  • Consejos sobre libros y material de lectura.

Durable Medical Equipment

en Español

According to the National Council of Aging, Durable Medical Equipment (DME), is defined as medical equipment that allows you to complete your daily living tasks.

If you are considering using your insurance to pay for DME equipment there are some important things to remember:

  • The cost will depend on your individual insurance and/or how much you have spent towards out of pocket cost
  • Typically most insurance companies will require a prescription from the doctor
  • Make sure to use insurance approved or in-network company
  • Not all DME equipment will be approved by insurance. It will depend on medical need

Examples of DME that may be covered through insurance:

  • Canes
  • Walkers
  • Manual Wheelchairs
  • Oxygen Tanks

If the cost of DME is unaffordable reach out to these resources. They may be able to assist.

FAQs on Durable Medical Equipment


Equipo Médico Durable

Según el Consejo Nacional de Envejecimiento, el Equipo Médico Duradero (DME), se define como un equipo médico que le permite completar sus tareas de la vida diaria.

Si está considerando utilizar su seguro para pagar equipos DME, hay algunas cosas importantes que debe recordar:

  • El costo dependerá de su seguro individual y / o cuánto haya gastado en fuera de bolsillo
  • Normalmente, la mayoría de las compañías de seguros requerirán una receta del medico
  • Asegúrese de usar un seguro aprobado o en compañía de la red
  • No todos los equipos DME serán aprobados por el seguro. Dependerá de la necesidad médica.

Ejemplos de DME que pueden ser cubiertos a través de seguros:

  • Bastones, andadores, sillas de ruedas manuales y oxígeno

Recursos si el costo de DME no es asequible para el paciente:

FAQs on Durable Medical Equipment