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Helpful Information on Social Security Benefits and Cancer

Posted on March 23rd, 2017

Qualifying for Social Security Benefits With Cancer

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, you may be concerned about making ends meet financially if you’ll be out of work while going through chemotherapy and other treatments. Fortunately, there could be resources available for you and your family. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers disability benefits for people in need. Thousands of people receive disability benefits after a cancer diagnosis every year.

Medically Qualifying for Disability Benefits With Cancer

A cancer diagnosis alone will not qualify for disability benefits. The SSA will need evidence that you’ll be out of work for at least 12 months due to your cancer’s complications or treatment, or that your cancer is terminal.

Every form of cancer will qualify differently. For example, esophageal cancer will qualify with just a diagnosis, as will any form of cancer that has spread to another organ. Breast cancer, on the other hand, usually need to be advanced to Stage III-B or further to qualify.  Some cancers that are highly treatable, such as prostate cancer, will not qualify unless they’ve spread to another organ, returned despite treatment, or are an aggressive form of cancer, such as small-cell cancer.

The SSA uses its own medical guide known as the Blue Book to evaluate your specific cancer diagnosis. The entire Blue Book can be found online, so be sure to review it with your doctor to determine if you’ll medically qualify.

Compassionate Allowances and Social Security

The average Social Security disability claim takes about five months to be approved, but sometimes up to 2 years if your initial application is denied. Fortunately, this is not the case for people with advanced forms of cancer. The SSA started its Compassionate Allowance initiative in 2008 to help people with clearly disabling conditions get approved for the resources they need quickly. Cancers that will qualify as a Compassionate Allowance with just a diagnosis include:

  • Esophageal cancer
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Inflammatory breast cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Salivary and sinonasal cancers
  • Thyroid cancer


If you don’t have one of the above diagnoses, you could still qualify for a Compassionate Allowance. So long as one of the following is true, your claim will be expedited:

  • Your cancer has returned despite treatment (3 months or more usually qualifies)
  • Your cancer is inoperable
  • Your cancer has spread to other organs.

There are no additional steps you need to take when filling out your Social Security application when applying with a Compassionate Allowance, nor is there any additional paperwork for you to fill out. When you submit your application, the SSA will automatically flag your application for expedited review. Instead of waiting for 5+ months to hear back from the SSA, you could be approved in as little as 10 days.

Keep in mind that even if you qualify for a Compassionate Allowance, your benefits will not start within 10 days. Unfortunately, the SSA still requires that disability recipients wait five months to receive their first payments.

What Disability Benefits Are Available?

The SSA has two types of disability benefit programs. The medical criteria for qualifying with cancer are the same for both, but each one is intended for a different type of applicant.

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): SSDI pays benefits to disabled workers and their eligible dependents. To qualify, you must have worked a certain number of years and earned a sufficient number of work credits prior to becoming disabled. It is funded through payroll taxes, and recipients are eligible for Medicare coverage after two years.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): SSI is a needs-based benefit program intended for children, the elderly and disabled applicants with limited assets and financial resources. To qualify, your family’s combined income and resources must be no more than $3000. SSI recipients also qualify for Medicaid and even food stamps.

It is possible to qualify for both SSDI and SSI at the same time. This happens if your awarded SSDI benefits are lower than the SSI monthly maximum payment, which is $735 in 2017.

Starting Your Disability Application

Most applicants can complete the entire Social Security application entirely online. This is the easiest way to apply for disability benefits, as you can save your progress and complete the application at a later date.

If you’d prefer to apply in person, you’ll need to make an appointment with a Social Security field office. There are more than 1,300 offices nationwide, and every state has at least four offices. Regardless of how you apply, be sure to fill out your application as carefully as possible. If the SSA cannot locate your biopsy reports, surgical notes, or other medical records, you may be denied benefits due to a technicality!

Blue Book:

Compassionate Allowances:

Apply Online:

SSA Field Offices:

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Save the Date- Tribute Dinner, September 12

Posted on June 24th, 2013

tribute dinner save the date- 1 up-1

Mark your calendar. We will host our annual Tribute Dinner on Thursday, September 12 at a NEW LOCATION. This year’s event will be held at The Landmark. Our guest speaker will be Jan Dravecky, wife and caregiver for Dave Dravecky, former San Francisco Giant’s pitcher. Invitations will be going out soon. Keep your eyes open for one and plan to join us. The event offers the community a chance to reflect and pay tribute to those touched by cancer in their lives.

Questions? Call Amber at (260) 484-9560 or email

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When CANCER Hits, a poem by Patty Hunter

Posted on March 21st, 2013

Cancer affects countless people in so many ways. The poem below was sent to Cancer Services from Patty, a friend of Judith. Patty was so moved by Judith’s death from cancer that she penned these emotional words. At Cancer Services, we are here to provide support- from the time a person is diagnosed, through their treatment and survivorship. Sometimes, in spite of the best treatment, we still lose our friends.

When CANCER Hits!

by Patty Hunter

A wonderful friend of mine had died

It was from a six-letter word, I cried.

This word was called by its ugly name,

and the word itself was Cancer.

When Cancer hits, it hurts all lives.

And members of the one who died,

Were the ones who were left behind.

Crying out, when is there a cure?

Till we find an answer,

There will be no rest.

We’re on bended knees.

crying out in the wilderness.

When Cancer hits, some do survive,

They live out precious lives.

For there is hope for us, we cried,

We will not lie down and die.

Till we find an answer,

There will be no rest.

We’re on bended knees.

crying out in the wilderness.

Till we find an answer,

There will be no rest.

We’re on bended knees.

crying out in the wilderness.

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Thank you Northwood Middle School

Posted on November 29th, 2012

by Linda Bewley, outreach coordinator

One person can make a huge impact on the lives of students and on an organization. Todd Roberts, a teacher at Northwood Middle School, is just such a person. Ten years ago, he started Aunt Elena’s Hair Care Challenge to honor his aunt and teach students the value of working to help others. Each year, he agrees to get a funky haircut and wear it for a number of days if certain fundraising goals are met. Students and faculty alike think up and participate in a variety of fundraising ventures to reach these goals throughout November. While having fun, they are working toward a goal and learning the value of helping others.

What was so impressive was the zeal with which these students collected money for charity. They were so happy to contribute to a worthy cause. Many of them have been personally touched by cancer—parents, siblings, grandparents, friends– so they understand the effect it has on people.

On November 21, I attended the wrap-up assembly and received a $4,000 check to be used to help our clients! I also came back with over 50 letters from students telling us why they wanted to help us and what they did to earn their contributions. One comment stands out: “You guys are the rock for cancer patients.”

Thank you Northwood Middle School!

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A Note From a Client’s Mother

Posted on July 3rd, 2012

We often receive thank you notes from clients and family members. It’s our mission to support those with cancer and their families in our community and receiving these notes tell us we are doing what we say we do. It’s our promise to our clients, and it’s important to us.

Here’s a note we received last week from a client’s mother:

Dear Peter,

My daughter first visited your office in March 2012. After that first visit, you and your agency provided not only many services, but you became her friends. She talked very highly of you and how much your talks helped her. So many times when she was anxious or despaired, you helped her through it. Thank you so much for being there for her. Her phone calls would sometimes drive me crazy, but I would give anything to be able to talk to her again. She would have been very pleased to see how many people came to her funeral.

Thank you again for all you do for everyone.


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Article: Ultrasound-Guided Breast-Conserving Surgery May Reduce Need for Further Surgeries

Posted on April 30th, 2012

A new study shows using ultrasound to guide the surgical removal of tumors from women with palpable breast cancer is significantly better than the standard approach in ensuring that all cancerous tissue is removed while minimizing the removal of healthy tissue.

Dr. Krekel and her colleagues randomly assigned 124 patients with palpable early-stage breast cancer to either ultrasound-guided surgery or palpation-guided surgery. They found that only 3.3 percent of the margins in the ultrasound-guided surgery group contained cancer cells, compared with 16.4 percent in the palpation-guided surgery group. They also found that less healthy tissue was removed in the ultrasound-guided surgery group.

“If we get the same results in the United States, and these results can be incorporated into community practice, it will spare many women unnecessary re-excision surgery,” said Dr. Jo Anne Zujewski, head of Breast Cancer Therapeutics in NCI’s Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis.

Read full article here.

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Article: Drawbacks of Adding MRI to Mammography Plus Ultrasound May Outweigh Benefits

Posted on April 25th, 2012

Adding ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to annual screening mammograms for women with an increased risk of breast cancer and dense breast tissue detects more new breast cancers than mammography alone but also results in more false-positive findings, according to results of a multicenter clinical trial.

Researchers found that adding ultrasound to mammography increased breast cancer detection by an average of 3.7 cases per 1,000 women screened after the second and third rounds of annual screening. The majority of cancers detected only by ultrasound were node-negative invasive cancers. Until now, it had been unclear whether continuing annual ultrasound screening would detect more cancers.

Although MRI was better at detecting cancer than mammography plus ultrasound, women found it less tolerable. “Despite its higher sensitivity, the addition of screening MRI rather than ultrasound to mammography in broader populations of women at intermediate risk with dense breasts may not be appropriate, particularly when the current high false-positive rates, cost, and reduced tolerability of MRI are considered,” the authors concluded.

Read the full article here.

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Article: Targeted Drug Shows Promise in Common Form of Lymphoma

Posted on April 23rd, 2012

Preliminary results from two early-phase clinical trials suggest that the investigational drug ibrutinib may benefit some patients with an aggressive type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). The treatment was well tolerated, with only minor side effects.

Two patients in the phase I trial had a complete response, one had a partial response, and a fourth patient who had not responded to any prior treatment had substantial tumor regression and a major improvement in his symptoms. One patient with a complete response continues to take the oral therapy daily and has shown no signs of disease for 16 months, Dr. Staudt stated. And the patient whose disease stabilized had enough tumor shrinkage to qualify for an allogeneic bone marrow transplant and is now in complete remission.

Drs. Staudt and Wilson are continuing their work with ibrutinib. “We’re already discussing strategies for the next trials,” Dr. Wilson said.

Read the full article here.

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CSNI Inspires New Wig Salon at The Gathering Place in Cleveland

Posted on February 20th, 2012

By Dianne May, president & CEO

I often meet cancer survivors who have a passion to help those walking the cancer journey. They feel they have learned so much through their experience they can make someone else’s experience a little easier.

For Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana that passion to share information happens on a corporate level too. We often network with sister organizations to share ideas and find better ways to care for people with cancer on a community level. That’s why it was a real joy last fall to meet Regina Brett, a writer, cancer survivor and volunteer with The Gathering Place in Cleveland, Ohio.

Regina visited Cancer Services before speaking at our fall dinner. She said lots of nice things during her visit, but she was bowled over when she stepped into the wig salon. Tears welled up in her eyes as memories about her own experience came flooding back. Then her survivor passion kicked in. She decided before leaving Fort Wayne that she had to help her local organization create a wig salon.

They are well on their way to providing wigs for women with cancer in Cleveland. Read about her story here: The Gathering Place Launches Wig-Lending Program

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Cancer Risk and Survivorship in Young Adults

Posted on November 23rd, 2011

A spotlight on young adults with cancer continues to shine as it becomes more prevalent than some might imagine. The Cancer Legal Resource Center Chronicle reports that adolescents and young adults ages 15 to 39 have greater risks of being diagnosed with cancer than children under the age of 15, as much as 8 time as likely.

Lymphoma, leukemia, germ cell tumors, melanoma, central nervous system tumors, sarcomas, and breast, cervical, liver, thyroid and colorectal cancers are the most commonly found types seen in young adults. A recent study revealed results of nearly 68,000 individuals, ages 15 to 39 years, had been diagnosed with cancer.

Cancer risk and survivorship challenges are under-recognized despite two barriers: minimal advances in treatments specifically altered for this population and the element of recent federal health care reforms. Very few clinical trials are made available to these young adults being diagnosed with cancer because of a lack of referrals being made by their diagnosing physicians.

For more information on young adult cancer, support and resources, visit The Cancer Legal Resource Center.


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