Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Getting Social Security Disability

Disability Benefits

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is a type of cancer that starts in the lymphatic system, which is part of the human immune system. This lymphatic system carries fluid throughout the body. Because of its very nature, cancer that affects this system easily spreads to other organs and tissues. People with NHL are often unable to work during treatment. If this describes you, then you should apply for Social Security disability benefits. Anyone whose medical condition forces them to stop working for at least one year may qualify for disability benefits.

NHL has three possible grades: slow-growing, intermediate, and fast-growing. While NHL can occur at any age, it mostly affects people in their sixties. If your doctor diagnoses you around this age, you are said to have “Adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma.” On the other hand, your doctor could also diagnose you with a second variant of this disease called “refractory Hodgkin lymphoma.” RHL describes patients previously diagnosed with classical Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) who underwent treatment for that disease. Doctors typically diagnose RHL in patients only if their cancer either does not respond to treatment or recurs within a year of successful treatment.

Important: Both disease variants of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (i.e., adult and refractory) are on the Social Security Administration’s Compassionate Allowances list. People with a CAL list condition can typically receive SSD benefits in 30 days or less.

What is a Compassionate Allowance (CAL) Condition?

The CAL list initiative fast-tracks disability claim reviews for people with very aggressive or rare medical conditions. It includes adult-onset Huntington’s disease, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and many other illnesses. Most people with CAL conditions receive SSD benefit approval within 30 days of their application date.

The SSA updates the CAL list on a regular basis. This also helps Americans with severe medical conditions skip the five-month mandatory wait period to get Social Security disability benefits.

How Do Doctors Diagnose Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL)?

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is separated out from other lymphomas when testing shows the presence of giant cells known as Reed-Sternberg cells. Because of this distinction, diagnostic testing for adult NHL includes:

  • Blood chemistry studies
  • CT scan
  • PET scan
  • MRI
  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy

Adult NHL may cause different physical signs and symptoms, depending on the tumor’s location. These signs may include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin
  • Discomfort or feeling of fullness in the abdomen
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexplained fever
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss

The prognosis for NHL is dependent on three factors:

  1. The malignant tumor’s type and characteristics,
  2. Location and growth of the tumor, and
  3. Whether it’s already spread (metastasis) at the time you receive your diagnosis.

Oncologists treat NHL via one or more of the following methods (depending on how you respond to earlier treatment):

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Antibody therapy
  • Biological therapy

Tips for Applying for Disability Benefits Due to Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Step 1: Decide Whether to Ask for Help or Apply on Your Own

There are a couple of different ways you can start this process. Want to apply on your own without anyone helping you? Then first, make an appointment with the SSA. When the SSA claims representative asks you what your disabling condition is, say your doctor diagnosed you with adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Plan to spend 3-5 hours at your local Social Security office filling out the required claim paperwork.

Important: Any SSA agent working in a local field office can help you get your claim paperwork started. However, they cannot give advice, tell you what to write in certain fields or request records you may need in order to complete your application.

Step 2: Find Someone Who’s Willing and Able To Assist You

Alternatively, you may want someone else to lend a hand with filling out your claim paperwork. This can help ensure you don’t miss anything (like leaving a required field blank) or make a simple mistake. Ask a family member, close friend, or a Social Security disability lawyer to assist you with the application process.

Important: Disability attorneys charge nothing up front to help you apply for benefits. However, the SSA is 2.9x more likely to award you benefits right away if a lawyer files your disability claim.

Step 3: Gather All Required Documents You Need to Apply for Disability

Gather the following documents ahead of your SSA appointment or before you meet with your disability attorney:

  • Birth and/or citizenship information (i.e., your Green Card, birth certificate, passport, driver’s license, etc.).
  • Social Security number
  • Marriage/divorce decrees (if applicable)
  • Names and birthdates of any children younger than 16 years old currently living at home (if applicable)
  • U.S. military service information (if applicable)
  • Employment-related documents for the last 36 months (new hire and termination records, annual salary/hourly wage rates, previous employer’s, name, address, contact information, job titles you held, etc.)
  • Self-employment records for the current year and last 2 years (this only applies if you worked for yourself)
  • Documents showing your job history for the past 15 years (such as an updated and complete resume with current, accurate references)

You will also need any documents that show your educational background and any vocational training or job-related certifications you’ve completed.

Step 4: Request Copies of Your Complete Medical Records From the Doctor Treating Your Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Finally, be sure to gather up your medical information. Start by making a list of the names, addresses and phone numbers of all your healthcare providers. You should also bring any of the following medical evidence that specifically applies to your NHL diagnosis or treatment:

  • Clinical history and examination records that describe your diagnosis
  • Imaging tests, if you have them
  • Biopsies or pathology reports
  • Surgical procedures and treatment records
  • Your doctor’s progress notes

To prove you have the RHL variant of the disease, be sure to bring:

  • Your clinical history confirming your diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma, and
  • Any documentation you may have that records your unsuccessful treatment or relapse within one year after completing initial treatment.

Expert SSDI Claim Assistance is Available to You    

To speak with a Social Security attorney in your state, please click the button below now. It costs you nothing to speak with a legal advocate about your non-Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms and how they limit your ability to work full-time.

The SSA will likely award you disability benefits shortly after you apply. And remember, an attorney charges nothing in legal fees until after the SSA awards you benefits. If you don’t win benefits, then you owe your attorney $0 for legal assistance. But if you do win, then you only pay a small, one-time fee.

Click the button below to connect with a nearby disability advocate for free, no-obligation claim help now:

Get Your Free Benefits Evaluation

Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at and