Health Insurance and Financial Assistance for the Cancer Patient

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Disability benefits

Through your employer

If you get to the point that you cannot work, find out if your employer has a long-term disability insurance policy before you leave your job. This type of policy often replaces 60% to 70% of your income. Read your policy closely. Find out the definition of disabled (according to your policy), the monthly benefit amount, the benefit period, the waiting period, and whether you must pay taxes on the money you get. Some companies also have a short-term disability option that can help replace income during part or all of the waiting period of the long-term disability policy.

Social Security Disability Income

If you have been working for many years, you probably have contributed to Social Security. If so, you might qualify for disability benefits. But you must meet Social Security’s definition of disability, which is very strict. If you get turned down, appeal the decision. Some cases that are turned down the first time are approved after an appeal. When approved, benefits do not begin until the sixth full month of disability.

With certain serious illnesses, including some types of cancer, it may take less time to be approved. The Social Security Administration can speed up their processing of disability applications for people with a diagnosis that’s on their Compassionate Allowances list. You can check the list online at

Your income has nothing to do with whether you qualify for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). To find out how to apply, call the Social Security Administration. (See the “To learn more” section for phone numbers.)

Keep in mind that after getting SSDI for 24 months you become eligible for Medicare. And if you have a dependent child or children, they may be eligible to receive benefits under your SSDI.

Supplemental Security Income benefits

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is designed to supplement the income of an eligible person or family in which there is a disabled person. The family or the person must have a low income and limited assets. If you have not worked much or if your income was very low before you became unable to work, you may be eligible for SSI. To get SSI, your income and assets must fall below a certain level and you must be disabled, over 65, and/or blind. Like SSDI, certain illnesses are allowed faster processing under the Compassionate Allowances program. If you do qualify, SSI pays you a monthly income. The amount you could get varies from state to state. It also varies from year to year.

Children can qualify for SSI if they meet Social Security’s definition of disability. Income criteria are checked by the local Social Security Administration office. Disability evaluation specialists at the state Social Security office decide whether you are disabled. Children with certain cancer diagnoses are considered disabled.

In many states Medicaid is given to any adult or child who gets SSI, but you may need to apply for it separately. You can get more information about SSI from your team social worker. Or you can get it from the nearest Social Security Administration office listed in the US Government section of your local phone book. See “To learn more” for more information.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a grant program that provides monthly cash payments to help pay for food, clothing, housing, utilities, transportation, phone, medical supplies, and other basic needs not paid for by Medicaid. TANF also helps states provide training and jobs to the people in their welfare programs. A social worker can tell you about your state’s plan or see the “To learn more” section for TANF contact information.

Last Medical Review: 02/16/2015
Last Revised: 02/16/2015