Disability Resources

Last Modified: August 4, 2011

OncoLink Cancer FAQ

I need help with disability and legal issues.

OncoLink Cancer FAQ

Christina Bach, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, Oncology Social Worker at the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn Presbyterian, responds:

Applying for disability is a big decision when diagnosed with cancer; and also a very personal one. Many people feel up to working throughout their treatment plan; others cannot work from the day of diagnosis.

First you should start with investigating your disability benefits, both short and long term, through your employer. Contact your Human Resources office to initiate this process.

Secondly, think about applying for social security disability (SSDI); the caveat with SSDI is that you will not see any payments until six months AFTER social security decides you are disabled and unable to work. For example if you are diagnosed in July, but continue working until May, Social Security will count MAY as the date you were disabled and you will not receive disability payments until December. Obviously SSDI is not a short-term solution; but if you have paid into the system and meet qualifications it can offer substantial financial resources.

If you haven't worked enough, you may be eligible for SSI (supplemental security income). This is also administered through the Social Security Administration. With SSI your date of application is your date of disability.

To apply for either SSI or SSDI the fastest method is through the internet- www.ssa.gov. You can also call 800.772.1213 to initiate your application.

If you need further legal information, contact the Cancer Legal Resource Center. They can provide Legal Assistance and direct you to local legal resources that may in available.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the transcript from Finding the Cancer Resources You Need.


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