Millions of Americans who rely on social security disability insurance (SSDI) after an illness like cancer strikes and they can no longer work. The benefits are meant to protect workers who can no longer earn an income and help provide for basic necessities.

In order to cut down on instances of fraud, there is a rigorous vetting process in place before approving SSDI. Recipients must meet specific criteria, including submitting paperwork showing the reasons for the application and detailing the history and severity of an illness or condition.

Cancer is a serious diagnosis, but not all cancers qualify for SSDI. People applying for disability on the basis of a cancer diagnosis must meet one of the following standards:

  • The cancer is in an advanced stage, with a poor prognosis. If you’ve been diagnosed with a form of cancer that is untreatable, metastatic, or so far advanced that survival is unlikely, you will qualify for disability. Aggressive forms of bladder, brain and kidney cancer are two cancers that are likely to qualify. Leukemia patients are typically automatically approved for SSDI.
  • The cancer’s treatments will make it impossible for you to continue to work. Some cancers require an aggressive treatment plan, and many types of treatments can render a person incapacitated and unable to go to a job.
  • Any other disabling effects from a cancer may qualify you. For instance, being diagnosed with a specific type of rare cancer makes it likely that you’ll be approved.

Some cancers, such as lung cancer, are determined based on the disease’s progression and specific location. Cancers in early stages are often less likely to qualify for disability benefits, although there are exceptions.

It may be necessary to seek the help of an attorney if you’ve applied for SSDI after a cancer diagnosis but have been denied. It’s possible that you will need to provide additional documentation or supporting evidence, or that a clerical oversight caused your denial, and a legal representative can help you present your case to increase your chances of approval.