Applying for Disability with Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer, even if detected early and highly responsive to treatment, will certainly put you out of work for months or longer. If you’re unable to return to work for 12 months or more, then Social Security disability benefits may be the answer. Benefits are paid monthly to qualified applicants and can be the solution for financial concerns when ovarian cancer prevents you from working and earning an income for yourself and your family.

Medically Qualifying for Social Security Disability

Ovarian cancer meets disability requirements under certain circumstances, including:

·       It has come back after initial treatment

·       It has metastasized to distant lymph nodes

·       Tumors have adhered or extended beyond the pelvic region, like to the surface of your bowels

·       The type of cancer is germ-cell and has recurred or progressed after initial treatments

·       The type of cancer is small-cell or oat cell carcinoma

The ovarian cancer disability listing appears in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) Blue Book under 13.23. Your doctor can help you understand the listing and whether you’ll qualify for benefits under the outlined requirements.

Expedited Review and Approval for Benefits

In its advanced stages, ovarian cancer medically qualifies for expedited benefits. This will include ovarian cancer that has spread to other regions of the body, or aggressive forms of ovarian cancer like “oat cell” ovarian cancer.

If your ovarian cancer has recurred, spread, or is inoperable, then your disability application qualifies for quick review and approval under the SSA’s Compassionate Allowances (CAL) program. Although CAL conditions still require a complete application and medical evidence to back up your claim, you will go through an expedited approval process. Instead of waiting for five months or more to find out if you qualify for benefits, you can get an answer on your eligibility in just a matter of weeks.

Early Stage Ovarian Cancer and Disability Benefits

 Disability benefits are only available to applicants that will be out of work 12 months or longer and those who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. When ovarian cancer is detected and treated in its early stages, many women are able to return to work within six months. If you are unable to go back to work due to long-term or permanent disability, you will have to prove this to the SSA.

If you do not meet the ovarian cancer disability listing, you may initially be denied benefits or the SSA may require you to go through a residual functional capacity or RFC evaluation.

·       If an RFC is required, then you and your doctor will complete additional questionnaires, detailing how your illnesses and treatment side effects limit your abilities on a daily basis.

·       Older women with early stage ovarian cancer will have a much easier time qualifying for disability benefits through an RFC. This is because the SSA considers older applicants less likely to be retrained for a less physical desk job.

Denied Social Security Disability Benefits

Unfortunately, about 70% of applicants are denied Social Security disability benefits the first time they apply. It is important to keep in mind that this figure represents all applicants, not just women with cancer. Because some disabilities are very challenging to win, such as a mental illness, the approval rate statistics are skewed. If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, you will be more likely to be approved than someone applying with an illness like depression or anxiety.

·       If you’re denied benefits, then you may:

o   Request a second review of your claim


o   File an appeal

If additional reviews or an appeal is required, you’ll want to provide the SSA more information to support your argument. New medical evidence is helpful under these circumstances, and authoritative, written opinions from your primary care doctor, oncologist, and other specialists can be beneficial as well. You’ll need your doctor’s help to make a strong argument for eligibility and you may wish to seek assistance from a disability advocate or attorney.

Applying for Benefits

Disability applications can be completed online, if you’re applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. For Supplemental Security Income (SSI) however, a personal interview is required and is typically held at the local SSA office.

Find your local office online, or start your SSDI application via the SSA’s website. Keep in mind, you can apply in person for SSDI benefits too, and can even complete both applications during a single visit to the local service office.