Finding Stability

Filing for Disability for Cancer: Should You Do It?

The financial issues that arise don't make cancer treatment any easier to deal with. Filing for disability for cancer can help ease that burden and make treatment a little less painful.

Possibly forgoing income and paying for others to help with daily tasks is financially draining and just adds to the stress of your cancer treatment. Is filing for disability for cancer an option? It could be. But there’s good news. Learning what options are available for disability for cancer may ease your financial and mental burden and can bring in some much-needed money. Here are some options to consider.

Employer-Based Disability Policies

Some employers have short-term and/or long-term disability insurance policies, which can pay a portion of your salary while you’re receiving treatment but not working. You would use short-term disability insurance to cover the period before long-term insurance kicks in. Long-term disability policies usually start after you’ve been unable to work for medical reasons for six months. While each policy may vary, short-term disability policies often cover up to 26 weeks of pay at 55 to 100 percent, according to Cancer + Careers. Long-term insurance may cover 60 to 70 percent of your income. Talk to your human resources department about what employer disability policies are available.

Social Security Disability Income

Most people think of Social Security strictly as retirement money. And while that’s the primary time it’s paid out, if you’ve been contributing to Social Security for a certain number of years, you might be eligible for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). Their disability definition is strict, you may have to appeal to get covered, and benefits don’t start until the sixth full month of disability, according to the American Cancer Society. If you’re getting SSDI payments for two years, you’ll qualify for Medicare. If you’re employed but need disability status, look first to your employer-based disability coverage, then to SSDI if it’s longer term.

Supplemental Security Income

If you meet the disability definition for SSDI and you’re a low-income person or have limited assets, you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. While SSDI doesn’t have income or asset thresholds, SSI does. You need to show that you have limited financial means to qualify for these benefits. The government considers an adult as having limited financial means if he or she has less than $2,000 in cash, bank accounts, stocks, land, personal property or other things that can be cashed in for money. Some things, like your residence and household goods, for example, don’t count toward that. To see if you qualify, fill out the Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool on the SSI website.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

A program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) provides monthly cash grants to cover basic needs that Medicaid doesn’t cover. The program is run by each state, which gets a federal grant to administer. In Virginia, the amount depends on your household makeup, ranging from $242 a month for a single person, to $570 a month for six or more in the house, though the amount could be higher or lower depending on your location. In Virginia, if you receive a TANF grant, you’re not eligible for SSI. Those who qualify must have a minor child at home and fall below a certain income, which varies based on your circumstance. You can only receive 60 months of TANF payments over a lifetime. You can screen for eligibility on Virginia’s TANF website.

The American Cancer Society lists agencies and phone numbers to contact about filing for disability for cancer. Talk to others going through treatment to see what they’ve done. Also, hospital social workers are a great source of information on this as well, and can point you in the right direction for your circumstances.

Making cancer treatment affordable is an important step on the road to recovery. Financial assistance might be available for you. Call 434.924.9333 to speak with a UVA Cancer Center Financial Coordinator.

Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Deborah Abrams Kaplan