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by Staff 9/2019

From chemotherapy to surgery, ovarian cancer treatment can take anyone out of the office. If you’ve been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and you’ll be unable to work for at least 12 months, you might be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers these much-needed financial resources to millions of people in need.

Medical Qualifications for Disability Benefits

Not every woman with ovarian cancer will “automatically” medically qualify for disability benefits. The SSA uses its own medical guide known as the Blue Book to evaluate every applicant for Social Security. The Blue Book contains hundreds of potentially qualifying illnesses, and which test results or symptoms you’ll need medical records of to be approved.

Ovarian cancer is found in Section 13.23 of the Blue Book. Under this listing, there are a handful of ways for you to medically qualify:

  1. Your cancer is not a germ cell tumor, and has at least one of the following:

· Extension beyond the pelvis, such as to the bowels

· Spread past regional lymph nodes

· Returned despite anticancer therapy (usually 3 months will qualify)

  1. Your ovarian cancer is germ cell, and it has returned since your initial anticancer therapy.
  2. Your cancer is small cell/oat cell, which is usually aggressive and more challenging to treat.

The Blue Book was written for medical professionals and is available online, so you can review the ovarian cancer listing with your oncologist to get a better understanding as to whether or not your unique diagnosis will meet a listing.

Medically Qualifying Without Meeting a Listing

Not every form of ovarian cancer will qualify under the Blue Book. This is especially true for women diagnosed at Stage I or Stage II. Fortunately, there is another way for you to qualify. People who do not meet a listing but can still prove they’re unable to work can receive disability benefits under what’s called a Medical Vocational Allowance.

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You can qualify for a Medical Vocational Allowance if your chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, or other anticancer therapies will have side effects so severe you’re unable to work. The SSA considers “work” to be earning more than $1,170 per month in 2017. Typically, older adults will have a much easier time qualifying under a Medical Vocational Allowance than younger applicants. This is because the SSA believes applicants aged 50+ will have a much harder time getting retrained for a sedentary job that’s easier to keep while going through cancer therapies.

If you currently work in an office and have a lot of skills that could be applicable to another career (computer skills, vocational work, etc.) you will likely have a tough time qualifying for a Medical Vocational Allowance. But older women who have physically active jobs have a good chance of qualifying. A Medical Vocational Allowance relies heavily on results from an SSA-standard form known as a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) evaluation. This form determines how much physical labor you can do, from standing, walking, lifting weight, etc. You can download an RFC online for your oncologist to fill out on your behalf.

Starting Your Application

Most women with ovarian cancer can apply for disability benefits entirely online. If you’d prefer, you can also schedule an appointment with your closest Social Security office. You can make a date to apply by calling the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213.

It usually takes around 5 months to hear back from the SSA, but if your ovarian cancer is advanced (has spread to other organs) or has returned despite treatment, your claim could be expedited and approved in as little as 10 days.


Ovarian Cancer Treatment:

Ovarian Cancer & SSD:

SSA’s Blue Book Ovarian Cancer:

Medical Vocational Allowance:

Residual Functional Capacity:

Local SSA Office: