My sister, a former social worker, recommended that I apply for Social Security disability benefits as soon as possible after diagnosis. It would never have occurred to me, and it sounded complicated.
As it turns out, though, if you have Stage IV lung cancer and have a work history, you probably qualify for disability. The government may even fast-track your application to make sure you start receiving cash assistance as soon as possible.
You can fill out most of the application online. There is a lot of paperwork to gather up. Once you have finished the application and gathered most of the documentation, there is an in-person interview at your local Social Security Administration office. Following the interview, the government investigates your claim by contacting doctors who have treated you.
I applied in March 2013 and started receiving benefits that July. By “benefits” I mean money, directly deposited into my bank account. Not only do I receive benefits, but my daughter, as the dependent child of a disabled adult, receives benefits, too – and her benefits will continue after my death. I have no life insurance because I never got around to buying any when I was healthy, so this will be huge for her when I am no longer here to help support her financially.
The kicker: Social Security pays disability benefits “…if you have worked long enough and have a medical condition that has prevented you from working or is expected to prevent you from working for at least 12 months or end in death.” (Emphasis added.) Stage IV people, we qualify under the “or end in death” clause. For me, applying for disability and receiving it was as much a confrontation with my mortality as my consultation with the surgeon.
For more information about applying:
Lung cancer is considered under the compassionate allowances (the end in death clause): http://www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances/. NSLC is considered when it’s metastasized beyond the hilar nodes or is inoperable, unresectable, or recurrent. Small cell is automatically considered. Hope this helps someone.
Thank you for doing that. Not only will it help you as you live in this difficult situation, but as you noted, it helps your daughter. I have two siblings (11 and 17) who receive benefits after my mother deceased, and it has made life so much easier for their caregivers. It is so hard to think of all the things that are necessary to make sure your loved ones are taken care of when you’re gone. I commend the efforts you are making.