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Social Security Disability Insurance for People with Cancer

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal benefit for people who have disabilities that keep them from working. To be able to get SSDI, people must have worked in jobs where they paid into Social Security.

Who qualifies for SSDI?

  • People who have worked and had enough money taken out of their paychecks for Social Security (FICA)
  • Self-employed people who paid self-employment taxes
  • People who meet Social Security’s definition of disability. This includes certain types of cancer.

Having a low income or financial need does not affect whether you can get SSDI.

How do I apply for SSDI?

You can apply for SSDI:

  • Online
  • By calling 800-772-1213 to make an appointment at your local Social Security office. 

Try to review the information about the disability application process before applying for SSDI. This will help you know what information you need to gather before applying. 

If your disability application is approved, you will usually receive your first benefit payment six months after the date the Social Security Administration finds that your disability began. You will also become eligible for Medicare after you've received SSDI benefits for 2 years.

The amount you get from SSDI will be based on how long you worked, and how much Social Security tax (also called FICA) was taken from your pay. Once you apply for SSDI, the disability clock starts running.

If you qualify and start getting SSDI, your spouse and any eligible children can also apply for SSDI. If you don’t qualify for SSDI, but you are disabled and have  limited income and resources, look into Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This program is based on your income and need.

If you have certain serious illnesses, including some types of cancer, it may take less time to be approved. The Social Security Administration can speed up their review of disability applications for people who have a diagnosis that’s on their Compassionate Allowances list.

What if I get turned down for SSDI?

If you get turned down for SSDI, reapply, and appeal if necessary. Many cases end up being approved after an appeal.

How can I find out more about SSDI?

  • Visit online – choose disability
  • Visit to learn about Social Security benefits you might be eligible for including SSDI
  • Go to your nearest Social Security office
  • Call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Have your Social Security number handy.

You can find out how much you would get from SSDI by looking at your Social Security statement. The statement shows your work history and an estimate of what your benefits would be at this time. To get a Social Security statement:

  • Call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask for Form SSA-7005 (Request for Social Security Statement). Complete the form and return it to the Social Security Administration.
  • Request a statement online through Social Security’s website at Click on My Social Security on the left side of the page.
Note: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is different from Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

SSI is for people who didn’t pay enough into Social Security during their working years, or who haven’t worked recently enough to qualify for SSDI. Some people who were employed for short times or whose income was very low may be able to get both SSDI and SSI because their SSDI payment is so low. In that case, the SSI payment is reduced by the amount of SSDI the person gets. See more information on Supplemental Security Income.

Need more information?

Other sources of information and support include:

US Department of Health and Human Services

This site explains patient rights with regard to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

American Hospital Association
Toll-free number: 1-800-242-2626 (this is the customer service/publication order line)

AHA’s Patient Care Partnership brochure teaches patients about rights and responsibilities in regard to their hospital stay. (It comes in English, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.) The brochure is sold in bulk orders only and there’s a fee for non-members. You can read it online for free, in any of the languages, at

National Library of Medicine

This site has information on patient rights along with many links to other sources of related information.

Medicare Rights Center (for those with Medicare)
Toll-free number: 1-800-333-4114

This service can help you understand your rights and benefits, work through the Medicare system, and get quality care. They have newsletters, fact sheets, and a place to submit questions. They can also help you find programs that help reduce your costs for prescription drugs and medical care, and guide you through the appeals process if Medicare denies coverage for drugs or care you need.

*Inclusion on this list does not imply endorsement by the American Cancer Society.


The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Social Security Administration (SSA). Disability benefits (booklet). Accessed at on August 17, 2023.

US Department of Health and Human Services (State Health Care Marketplaces). People with disabilities. Accessed at on August 17, 2023.

Last Revised: September 30, 2023

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