How to Get Social Security Disability Benefits for Breast Cancer

Important: We updated this article in July 2022 with the latest SSA policy data. On average, doctors diagnose nearly 90,000 women aged 50-64 with breast cancer every year. If you develop breast cancer, can you qualify for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits? It helps to know what the Social Security Administration (SSA) looks for before you apply. Below, we’ll explain which breast cancers get approved faster for disability benefits, basic eligibility requirements and more.

Basic Requirements to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits

Every SSD applicant must meet these requirements, regardless of their health issues:

  1. You must be at least 18, but younger than 66 when you apply. If you’re old enough to draw early retirement (62-65) from Social Security, don’t apply for that yet! You’ll get paid more money each month if the SSA approves your SSD application. This protects your Social Security money and ensures you receive the full amount once you reach normal retirement age. People younger than 18 cannot qualify for SSD benefits because they don’t yet have enough Social Security work credits.
  2. You must have at least 20 Social Security work credits earned within the last 10 years to qualify. Typically, this means you worked at least 5 years in the last decade and paid FICA taxes with every paycheck. Those FICA taxes pay the monthly premiums for your federal disability insurance policy that covers most full-time American workers. Once you stop working for more than 60 months (5 years), your coverage automatically ends. Only people with active insurance policies can qualify for SSD benefits.
  3. You cannot qualify for disability benefits if you’re still working when you apply. To get disability, you must prove that you cannot work in any job at all for at least 12 months. If you’re still working part-time or planning to quit only after your claim’s approved, the SSA rejects your claim automatically.
  4. Your income must fall below $1,350/month to qualify. I know, we just said you can’t work at all and get disability benefits. This includes payments from other sources (i.e., alimony, child support, TANF, food stamps), which can’t be more than $1,350/month. Otherwise, you make too much money to qualify for SSD payments.

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits With Breast Cancer

Now, let’s look at how the SSA specifically evaluates breast cancer claims for disability benefits.

Step 1: Evaluation Criteria for Most Breast Cancers

The SSA’s Blue Book lists evaluation criteria for various breast cancers that count as qualifying disabilities. They list this information under section 13.10, Breast. They want to see at least one of these breast cancers in your medical records within the past year:

  1. Small-cell (also known as oat cell) carcinoma
  2. Cancer that’s spread to at least 10 lymph nodes above or below your collar bone or in your armpit(s)
  3. Inflammatory carcinoma that’s spread to your chest wall, skin or lymph nodes inside your breast(s)
  4. Any form of breast cancer that also includes secondary lymphedema
  5. Recurrent cancer that comes back after treatment (usually Stage III or later)

If you’re not sure what type of breast cancer you have, show this article to your doctor. The only thing that matters is that you have strong, recent medical evidence to support your SSD claim.

Step 2: Rapid Claim Approval Process for Certain Breast Cancer Types

Unfortunately, some breast cancers are more aggressive than others. If your breast cancer type is on the Compassionate Allowances list (CAL), they’ll speed up your claim review. You may receive your first disability payment within 30 days after you apply if you have:

  1. Stage IV breast cancer
  2. Metastatic breast cancer/carcinoma
  3. Stage IV ductal carcinoma of the breast
  4. Metastatic ductal carcinoma/cancer
  5. Stage IV lobular carcinoma of the breast
  6. Metastatic lobular cancer

Again, if you’re not sure what you have, just show this article to your oncologist. Explain that you’re applying for Social Security disability and need copies of your medical records from the last 12 months.

Even people with cancer struggle to get through the disability claim approval process. You’d think a cancer diagnosis would make it easier to get disability benefits, but not always. Having a lawyer file your disability claim makes you 3x more likely to get benefits right after you apply. You can sign up for a free phone call with the closest Social Security attorney who’s available today. That way, you can get free legal advice that applies to your specific situation without leaving your house!

There are many benefits to having legal assistance with your disability claim. Most people who file with legal assistance through our website get at least $12,000 in backpay plus monthly benefits. These attorneys always work on contingency. That means if the lawyer can’t get you benefits, you pay $0 for legal assistance. And if the SSA does approve your claim, you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee afterwards.

Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now!

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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity,, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.