Most patients suffering from an aggressive brain tumor qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
There are multiple ways to receive disability benefits when an individuals has a brain cancer diagnosis. If you have a malignant brain tumor(s) that is inoperable, metastasizing (spreading), or won’t respond to treatment, you may qualify for SSDI or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) if you satisfy all the criteria for such a condition. Often, such cases are approved much faster than typical SSDI applications and sometimes don’t require a hearing.
If your form of brain cancer has not yet metastasized and is currently treatable, you may still be eligible for benefits. Your chances for receiving benefits improve if either your treatment or your general physical condition prevents you from performing your normal work duties.
The Social Security Listings and Brain Cancer
There are a certain number of serious diseases which are listed in a “Social Security Listing of Impairments” by the Social Security for special cases. Such neoplastic diseases include brain cancer, will automatically qualify a person for SSDI benefits.
Social Security must first view your medical records to see if you qualify for the accelerated approval, including physician notes, lab work, radiology reports, and clinic notations. Oftentimes, a written statement from a qualified specialist doctor can be very effective in affirming your case. If it is accepted, you will not have to advance to a hearing. If not, don’t give up; working closely with your Social Security Disability attorney will allow to set a strategy as you move through the stages of the claims process.
Your condition and limitations may prevent you from performing full-time work because of the underlying cancer or because of the side effects of treatment. Radiation therapy, especially whole brain radiation, is notorious for its brutal side effects, including nausea, fatigue, cognitive difficulties, and a compromised immune system.
The professional medical opinion of your attending physician, especially your oncologist, is vitally important in Social Security’s determination of your RFC. Your physician may write a letter on your behalf or complete an RFC form.
Compassionate Allowances and Glioblastoma Multiforme
Social Security utilizes a Compassionate Allowances program which allows a person with a very serious qualifying condition to be approved for disability benefits in a much shorter time frame. Glioblastoma Multiforme, “a fast-spreading tumor located in the central nervous system and formed from the glial tissue in the brain and spinal cord,” is one these qualifying conditions. Glioblastoma Multiforme is the most common type of primary brain tumor (and is also referred to as Grade IV astrocytoma). Symptoms of this disease include: memory loss, personality changes, vomiting, headaches, and seizures. After being diagnosed, patients usually survive between 12 and 16 months.
If you have been diagnosed with this type of brain tumor and wish to apply for disability benefits (through SSDI or SSD), you must still ensure Social Security has all the medical evidence related to your disease (as previously mentioned: all related medical records, lab results, and, if possible, a statement from your treating doctors about your diagnosis). You should signify that your condition fits under the Compassionate Allowance program in your Initial Application to ensure it’s reviewed under category of impairment.
Brain Tumor Disability Overview
A brain tumor is an abnormal mass or cancerous growth of cells in your brain.
There are many different types of brain tumors. Some are noncancerous (called benign), while cancerous ones are called malignant. Brain tumors can originate in your brain (primary brain tumors), or the cancer can stem from other parts of your body and eventually spread to your brain (secondary, or metastatic, brain tumors).
The treatment for brain tumors is solely dependent on the type of cancer, as well as its size and location within the brain.
Primary brain tumors consist of tumors which originate in the brain. Primary brain tumors can start from brain cells, the membranes around the brain (meninges), nerves, or glands.
Tumors are able to directly destroy brain cells. They also damage cells by producing inflammation, placing pressure on other parts of the brain, and increasing pressure outward on the skull.
The cause of primary brain tumors remains unknown. There are many possible risk factors that could play a role. Some possible causes are can be found at Medline Plus.
Specific Tumor Types
Brain tumors are classified depending on:
- The location of the tumor
- The type of tissue
- Whether noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant)
Tumors may occur at any age, but many types of tumors are more common to specific age groups. In adults, for example, gliomas and meningiomas are the most common.
According to the Penn State Medical Research Center, Gliomas come from glial cells such as astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and ependymal cells. The gliomas are divided into three types: Astrocytic, Oligodendroglial, and glioblastomas.
Meningiomas and schwannomas are two other types of brain tumor. These tumors occur most often later in life, and are usually noncancerous. Despite being noncancerous, some may still cause complications and death depending on their size and location. Meningiomas are much more common in women. Schwannomas affect both genders equally.
Other primary brain tumors in adults are very seldom. A complete listing can be found here.
Some tumors do not cause symptoms until they grow to be large. It is only at that point that they begin to damage a person’s health. The most common noticeable symptoms are:
- Changes in an individual’s mental function
- Seizures (especially in older adults)
- Weakness in one part of the body
Headaches stemming from brain tumors may:
- Worsen when the person arises in the morning, and then improve throughout the day
- Occur during nighttime rest
- Occur in conjunction with vomiting, confusion, double vision, weakness, or numbness
- Worsen with coughing or exercise
The following tests can diagnose a patient with a brain tumor and find the tumor’s location:
- CT scan of the head
- Examination of tissue removed from the tumor during surgery or CT-guided biopsy (may confirm the type of tumor)
- Examination of the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) (may show cancerous cells)
- MRI of the head
Treatment may consist of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Brain tumors are best treated by a team of doctors which includes:
- Radiation oncologist
- Other health care providers, such as neurologists and social workers
Surgery is often required for most primary brain tumors. Some tumors may be completely removed. Those that are deep inside the brain or that enter brain tissue may be shrunk or “debulked” instead of removed. Tumors may be difficult to remove completely by surgery alone, because the tumor invades surrounding brain tissue and quickly takes root in many of the healthy brain cells. When the tumor cannot be removed, surgery may still help reduce pressure and relieve symptoms. Chemotherapy may be used with surgery or radiation treatment.
Comfort measures, safety measures, physical therapy, and occupational therapy may be needed to improve quality of life. Counseling, support groups, and similar measures can help you and your close friends and family cope with the diagnosis and treatment process.
Legal advice may be beneficial for creating advanced directives such as a power of attorney.
Hiring an SSDI Attorney
Even in cases of brain tumors, there are no guarantees in the Social Security Disability process. The best way to ensure you receive the benefits you deserve is by retaining a knowledgeable Utah Social Security Lawyer.
The overwhelming majority of all applications are rejected at both the initial and appeals stages, but nearly two-thirds of cases brought to a hearing (with a competent lawyer representing the disable person) are accepted. Call the Summit Disability Law Group and let us help you navigate the complicated legal structure so you can receive the benefits you deserve.