St. David's HealthCare - August 18, 2023
by Katie Ozuna, LMSW, OSW-C, OPN-CG

After receiving a cancer diagnosis, receiving financial assistance quickly can make a significant difference in a patient’s quality of life. While the application process for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be lengthy, there are certain circumstances that may allow you to expedite claims. The criteria may vary depending on your location, the specific circumstances surrounding a cancer diagnosis and degree of disability.

Generally, the following situations may qualify for expedited processing:

Compassionate allowances

Compassionate Allowances are a list of specific medical conditions that are so severe that they automatically qualify as disabilities, allowing for expedited claims processing. View the SSA’s compassionate allowance list to check if your diagnosis is on the list.

Terminal illness cases (TERI)

If you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, you may be eligible for expedited processing. Notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) of your condition and provide medical documentation supporting the terminal diagnosis. For more about TERI cases, please visit the SSA site.

Military service-related disabilities

Veterans who incurred disabilities during active military service on or after October 1, 2001, may be eligible for expedited processing through the Wounded Warrior Project. Inform the SSA about your military service-related disability when submitting your application.

When applying for SSI or SSDI, make sure to gather well-organized documentation. To expedite your claim, gather the following:

1. Medical records

Obtain all relevant medical records, including diagnosis, treatment history, laboratory results and details of healthcare providers involved in your treatment. Ensure your medical documentation clearly supports the severity of your condition and its impact on your ability to work.

2. Supporting letters

Obtain supporting letters from healthcare professionals who have treated you, describing your condition and the impact on your ability to work. These letters can add weight to your disability claim.

3. Work and earnings history

Compile your work and earnings history, including tax records and any other employment-related documentation. This information is especially important for SSDI claims, as it demonstrates your work credits.

Notify the SSA of urgency

If your situation falls under the expedited claim criteria mentioned earlier, make sure to clearly communicate this to the SSA. When submitting your application or during follow-up conversations, notify them of your eligibility for expedited processing due to compassionate allowances, terminal illness or military service-related disabilities, and provide any supporting documentation.

Follow up and stay informed

After submitting your application, regularly follow up with the SSA to check the status of your claim. Stay informed about the progress and any additional information they may need. Respond to any requests from the SSA as quickly as possible to prevent delays.

While there is no guarantee that your disability claim will be expedited, understanding the expedited claim process may increase your chances of receiving assistance through SSI or SSDI. Members of your medical team — such as social workers, case managers and navigators — can support you through this process.

If you want to learn more about cancer and disability insurance, please visit Triage Cancer’s webpage. They also have a free legal and financial navigation program, which provides one-on-one help to patients in the areas of health insurance, disability insurance, employment, finances, medical decision-making, estate planning and more.