Can I qualify for disability with melanoma if I have had a remission period?
I was diagnosed Melanoma stage 4, and have undergone surgery and radiation. I understand that Stage 4 Melanoma is an automatic qualifier for SSDI, since it is considered terminal.
I chose to continue to work for as long as I can and have been NED (basically in remission) for over 6 years now. Although I am NED, working has become increasingly more stressful and I have been deveoping increased pain and difficulty moving around. The Stage 4 cancer will never improve, and remission is not gauranteed to continue.
Will the 6 year period of being in remission restrict me from qualifying for SSDI, even though my prognosis is not expected to improve? The pain and increased stress are making it more difficult to maintain working. I am currently 60 years old.
Social Security Disability is more about functional limitations rather than a specific diagnosis. If you are working full time, you would not be able to receive Social Security Disability. If, however, your condition forces you to stop work or reduce your earnings to under one thousand and ninety dollars per month, which is the substantial and gainful income limit for applicants and recipients at this moment (to see the current SGA earnings limit), you can file for disability. Keep in mind that that amount is a gross income amount, not net take home pay per month.
In your case, you have a diagnosis of stage 4 Melanoma, but you are in remission. I am really not sure how Social Security would look at it. It could go either way since you have had the diagnosis for six years and you have maintained employment. Also, you have not gone out of remission.
However, you must always remember that being approved for disability is more a matter of the functional limitations you possess, not the condition itself.
This page illustrates this fact: If you file for Social Security Disability or SSI disability and are approved for benefits, the approval will happen in one of two ways.
You may have limitations that are related to all of the treatment you have received as a result of the Melanoma and that could be in your favor. You are also at a good age for the Social Security vocational guidelines to allow for a medical vocational allowance (the vocational grid rules begin to favor individuals at 50 and then even more at 55).
I would also like to say if you can hold out until age 62 you can file for both retirement and disability simultaneously. This would mean you would have income while you wait for a disability decision.
All things to consider if you are thinking you might wish to file for disability. I hope this helps and I hope things go well.
About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.
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