Social Security Disability for a Brain Tumor

Posted on September 30, 2016
Contributed by Deanna Power, Community Outreach Manager, Social Security Disability Help 


If you or your child has been diagnosed with a brain tumor you are no longer able to work, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. These resources are available for anyone who has been diagnosed with an illness that keeps them from working and earning income. There are numerous complications that could keep you from working: You can experience vision problems, memory problems, numbness or weakness in body parts, speech and sensory problems. Fortunately, there can be financial help available for you.

Medically Qualifying for Disability Benefits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a medical guide, which is called the Blue Book, to determine whether you will be determined disabled and eligible for benefits. Benign brain tumors are listed in the Blue Book as a medical condition that is eligible for benefits. Benign brain tumors are listed in Section 11.05, but does not have specific criteria that must be met. Instead, the Blue Book explains that in order to qualify, you will be evaluated according to the listing or listings that are associated with your particular symptoms.

Some of the listings that may apply to an individual who suffers from a brain tumor:

  • 11.02 Convulsive Epilepsy OR
  • 11.03 Non-convulsive epilepsy OR
  • 11.04 Central Nervous System Vascular Accident, which is a stroke

Both adults and children can qualify the same way for different forms of epilepsy. For example, to qualify under the convulsive epilepsy listing, you’ll need to prove that your brain tumor causes seizures once per month despite taking medication. For non-convulsive epilepsy, you’ll need to have the evidence showing you have one seizure per week despite medication.

While you may not have the particular condition that is referred to in the listing, brain tumors are known to result in similar symptoms and side effects. If your brain tumor or its treatments have not caused seizures or symptoms that resemble a stroke, you could meet the qualifications of a different listing. For example, if you will be going through at least 12 months of chemotherapy, you could qualify for Social Security benefits because you may be too ill to work. For children, if chemotherapy will keep your child out of school for 12 months, he or she will almost certainly medically qualify. You will need to review the Blue Book with your oncologist to find a listing you can qualify under.

Meeting the Criteria

If you don’t meet the criteria set forth for any of the listings that are applicable to a brain tumor, you may be able to meet the requirements for a medical-vocational allowance, which will enable you to demonstrate how your condition has limited you and impaired your ability to work.
These criteria apply to both children and adults who have been diagnosed with a brain tumor. A medical-vocational allowance uses a residual functioning capacity (RFC) to show your limitations, such as you are only able to stand for two hours, or you cannot bend or carry items. This plays a significant role in your overall claim. You can simply download the RFC online for your oncologist to fill out.

Compassionate Allowances and Social Security

Some conditions are so severe, they clearly warrant disability benefits. These are known as Compassionate Allowances. If your brain tumor qualifies as a Compassionate Allowance, you could be approved for disability benefits in as little as 10 days. Here are the of brain tumors that qualify as a Compassionate Allowance:

  • Childhood brain cancer
  • Brain cancer (adult)
  • Childhood malignant brain stem cancer
  • Oligodendroglioma brain cancer (Grade III+)

If your brain cancer qualifies as a Compassionate Allowance, you do not need to do anything additional to your application. The SSA will flag your claim for expedited review on its own.

Applying for Social Security Benefits

To learn more about applying for benefits, or to start the process, you can visit the SSA’s website. If you are applying on behalf of a child, you will need to schedule an appointment at your local SSA office. You can make an appointment by calling the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213.

After Approval: Student Loans are Forgiven

Student loans can be one of the most challenging debts for families to face, especially when paying for treatments for a brain tumor. Even if you declare bankruptcy, student loans will not be forgiven. Fortunately, if you or your child is approved for Social Security disability benefits and you have student loans, they will be forgiven upon approval. This will greatly ease your financial burden and help you focus on treatments and recovery.