Social Security disability benefits are resources provided by the Social Security Administration to financially help anyone with a serious disease or condition that prevents them from working. All cancer, including ovarian cancer, can potentially qualify for disability benefits.
Any woman with later stage ovarian cancer automatically meets the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) medical eligibility requirements for disability benefits. Ovarian cancer in its early stages can be more difficult to establish as a long-term disability, but it is still possible under some circumstances to qualify for SSD.
Medically Qualifying with Ovarian Cancer
The SSA maintains listings of impairments in its Blue Book manual. The listing for ovarian cancer appears in Section 13.23 and covers all forms of ovarian cancer, including germ-cell, sarcoma, and carcinoma.
Germ-cell ovarian cancer qualifies under this listing only if it has recurred after initial treatment. With a carcinoma or sarcoma form however, your medical records must show:
- Tumors that go beyond the pelvis, like those that have adhered to the bowels or peritoneal tissues
- Metastatic tumors in the lymph nodes, regional or distant
- Recurrence after initial treatment.
If your cancer meets one of these requirements, then you “automatically” medically qualify for benefits, though you will still need to complete the full application process and the SSA will need to see thorough medical records documenting your condition. Specifically, these records include:
- A formal diagnosis, including onset, treatments, and prognosis
- Pathology and operative reports, if applicable
- Imaging scans, blood work, and other diagnostic reports
- A statement from your physician about your cancer, including clinical observations and a summary of your overall condition
- Treatment side effects and any residual impairments from your illness or your treatments
If your cancer is advanced and inoperable, then your application for benefits will be reviewed more quickly as part of the SSA’s Compassionate Allowances (CAL) program. CAL expedites the process, allowing you to potentially get benefits sooner.
Ovarian cancer that is in the early stages, has not spread, and has responded to treatment does not meet the listing in the Blue Book but you may still be able to get benefits. It will be more difficult to prove disability though and you will need to go through a “residual functional capacity” (RFC).
RFC is a process by which the SSA looks at your everyday abilities to determine if you are so impaired by your illness, treatments, and residual effects that you’re unable to maintain gainful employment. Your medical records play a big part in the RFC analysis, but the SSA will also require you to fill out a “functional report” form. Your physician should also complete a similar report.
These documents allow you and your doctor to explain how your everyday abilities are affected by your medical condition. If the SSA finds you are unable to work in any job, then you can receive benefits despite not meeting the Blue Book listing for ovarian cancer.
Applying for Benefits
There are two types of disability benefits for which you may qualify with ovarian cancer:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which can be applied for online via the SSA’s website OR in person at your local SSA office,
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which can only be applied for via a personal interview with an SSA representative.
An appointment is necessary to apply at the local SSA office and can be scheduled by calling 1-800-772-1213, but online applications can be completed at any time.
Community Outreach Manager