More than 64,000 Americans received a pancreatic cancer diagnosis in 2023. And it may become the second-leading cause of cancer deaths by 2030, according to data from the American Cancer Society. Living with the disease can make it difficult to hold down a job or earn a living. That’s why many people seek disability benefits for pancreatic cancer from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
We created this guide to help you learn the process to receive disability benefits for pancreatic cancer.
Yes. Pancreatic cancer is one of several forms of the disease included in the SSA’s Blue Book. The Blue Book is an online listing of the Social Security Administration’s qualifying medical conditions for disability benefits.
Depending on your specific symptoms and job duties, earning enough income while living with the disease may not be possible.
Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms and Risk Factors
Your risk of developing pancreatic cancer goes up if you:
- Use tobacco
- Are overweight or at least 65 years old
- Have diabetes or chronic pancreatitis
- Work in either dry cleaning or metalworking
- Come from an African-American background
- Have a family member with pancreatic cancer
You can have pancreatic cancer for a long time without showing signs or experiencing symptoms. That means the disease may be very large or have spread by the time you discover it. Symptoms can include the following:
- Jaundice and related symptoms, such as dark urine or itchy skin
- Belly or lower back pain
- Weight loss and poor appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Enlarged gallbladder or liver
- Blood clots
IMPORTANT: Experiencing any of the above signs or symptoms does not mean you have pancreatic cancer. However, if you do notice any of these, it’s important to have a doctor diagnose and treat whatever ails you.
The SSA has two disability benefits programs: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). You can apply for both programs at once with one checkmark on the claim form. You can start the application process online via the SSA’s website, if you so choose.
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). American workers pay into this program with every paycheck. That means if you work full-time for an employer who withholds FICA or Social Security taxes, then you have coverage. IMPORTANT: If your job doesn’t withhold FICA taxes or you haven’t worked in the last 5 years, look at SSI.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI provides benefits for low-income Americans who are blind, disabled, or over 65. PRO TIP: Learn more about SSI asset and income limits here.
IMPORTANT: Because pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed late and can spread quickly, it’s crucial to start the application process as soon as possible.
The SSA understands the urgent need for assistance once you receive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. That’s why it created the Compassionate Allowances program (CAL) back in 2008. It helps accelerate the claims review process for people who meet disability benefits criteria and have either terminal or rare conditions. Almost all (95%) of CAL applicants receive disability claim approval in 10 to 14 days, on average.
There are four ways to apply for disability benefits:
- Via the SSA website. Learn more about applying online.
- Over the phone. To do this, call 1-800-772-1213 or TTY 1-800-325-0778 Monday through Friday, 8am-7pm EST.
- In person at your local SSA office. Haven’t visited a Social Security office in a while? Check out what to expect.
- With an attorney’s help, which costs you $0 upfront and also makes your claim almost 3x more likely to succeed. See what a Social Security attorney can do for you.
Medical evidence forms the basis of your disability claim. IMPORTANT: File your claim even if you don’t have any medical evidence beyond a diagnosis. Because pancreatic cancer progresses fast, don’t wait to file your claim until you have all the evidence.
The SSA needs three kinds of evidence:
- Copies or photocopies of medical records, doctors’ reports, and recent test results.
- Information about your ability to do work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, lifting, carrying, and understanding and remembering instructions.
Statements from doctors, yourself, and others regarding the following information:
- What are your specific illnesses, injuries, or conditions?
- When did they begin?
- How do they limit your daily activities?
- What did medical tests show?
- What treatment did you receive?
IMPORTANT: Haven’t yet started treatment ― or maybe the SSA needs more information? They’ll ask you to go to an independent doctor’s exam which they pay for, not you.
Dealing with a pancreatic cancer diagnosis is a lot to take for both you and your family members. Working with a lawyer can help ease the burden and file your claim much faster. IMPORTANT: Disability attorneys work on contingency. They won’t take on your case unless they believe you qualify for SSD benefits. If they’re successful, then you only pay one small fee. And if your claim doesn’t result in benefit approval, then you pay nothing.
Want to speak to a nearby expert for free about your claim? Click the button below now to start your free online benefits quiz and see if you may qualify:
Margot Lester is the CEO of The Word Factory, a B2B & B2C content marketing agency that provides services for Fortune 100 brands, healthtech companies and SaaS developers. An award-winning business and brand journalist, she writes for daily and weekly newspapers and business journals, national magazines, in-flight publications and leading websites. Margot is also an in-demand writing coach and organizational communications trainer, helping individuals and teams write more effectively. Twitter/X: @word_factory LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/margotlester.