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LIVER CANCER & SSD BENEFITS

WHAT IS LIVER CANCER?

Liver cancer occurs when your liver cells divide aggressively multiply. This creates tumors. If tumors are in your liver, then you have liver cancer. In the United States, each year more than 40,000 people are found to have liver cancer. Worldwide, more than 800,000 people each year are diagnosed with this cancer. Liver cancer accounts for more than 700,000 deaths each year.

Liver cancer can be treated with surgery or liver transplant. But only if the cancer is caught in the early stages. Unfortunately, most people receive the diagnosis after the disease has spread to other organs. Once metastasis occurs, the cancer is incurable. Doctors then focus treatment on prolonging life and reducing pain.

liver cancer - doctor writes the word

IS LIVER CANCER A DISABILITY?

Because of the severe symptoms from liver cancer, most individuals with liver cancer find themselves unable to earn a living.

If you have liver cancer and are unable to work a full time job, then the Social Security Administration has two programs for you: SSDI and SSI. These programs are designed to support you and your family if you cannot work due to physical illness, such as cancer. Unfortunately, it can take up to two years to receive benefits under either program. That is why it is important to apply for benefits right away.

SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS

The first program is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Under this program, you must have a lengthy work history. You also must also have paid your taxes. A portion of your taxes goes to pay an insurance premium. This gives you coverage or insurance in the SSDI program. Find out more about the requirements to receive and apply for SSDI benefits here.

In addition to monthly payments, both programs provide medical health insurance. SSDI comes with Medicare. Medicare provides a safety net. It allows you the ability to pay for most of your medical needs. Learn more information about Medicare here.

WHAT DO RECIPIENTS OF SSD BENEFITS GET?

If you qualify for Social Security Disability (SSDI) you receive two benefits:

  1. A monthly disability check (usually between $800 and $3,000). The amount of your monthly check depends on how much money you have earned during your working life.
  2. Free health insurance through Medicare. Medicare has a waiting period of 29 months (this includes the five month waiting period, along with the 24 month waiting period).
  3. You can also receive other benefits. Including monthly benefit payments for your children and a higher Social Security retirement payment when you turn 67. You can also receive forgiveness of student loan debt.

SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME (SSI)

The second program is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Under the SSI program, you must meet the same disability requirements as those for SSDI. However, since this program is based on financial need, you must also meet the income and asset rules. Find out more information about SSI benefits here.

SSI benefits come with Medicaid. Medicaid also uses the same financial rules as SSI. Unlike Medicare, Medicaid does not have a waiting period before it begins. If you need more information about Medicaid benefits, read here. Medicaid covers most health needs, including monthly medications.

LIVER CANCER IS A COMPASSIONATE ALLOWANCE 

Social Security’s Compassionate Allowances program allows for expedited approval on disability applications if you receive a liver cancer diagnosis. The liver cancer survival rate is not very high. Instead of waiting two years to win benefits, if you have cancer of the liver, then you may be able to win benefits in as little as one month.

In addition, your attorney can ask the SSA to tag your claim as a on liver cancer TERI (Terminal Illness) cases. This requires the SSA to process the claim as quickly as possible, so that you can receive benefits.

Liver Cancer can be found under POMS regulations DI 23022.225, because liver cancer is a compassionate allowance in SSA’s regulations. Liver cancer appears on the Compassionate Allowances and TERI lists, because of the severe symptoms and the poor prognosis of  the disease.

If you have a liver transplant, you are automatically eligible for SSD benefits for one year. Under listing 5.09  Liver transplantation, if you have a liver transplant, then the SSA will consider you under a disability for 1 year following the date of transplantation. After the one year period of disability, they will consider your residual functional capacity to determine if you are still under a disability.

THE SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF LIVER CANCER

There are two common forms of liver cancer. The most common liver cancer is Hepatocellular Carcinoma.

HEPATOCELLULAR CARCINOMA

The Hepatocellular variety of liver cancer is often the result of having Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C in the past. Hepatocellular Carcinoma is a type of adenocarcinoma that forms in the liver tissue. Likewise, this type of liver cancer is also connected to a past history of alcoholic liver cirrhosis.

INTRAHEPATIC BILE DUCT LIVER CANCER

Another common form of liver cancer is Intrahepatic Bile Duct Cancer. Bile duct cancer, also called cholangiocarcinoma. Bile duct cancer starts in the bile ducts. The bile ducts are tubes that connect the liver and gallbladder to the small intestine.

If you cancer forms in the bile ducts inside the liver, then it is called intrahepatic bile duct cancer. However, if the cancer forms in the bile ducts outside your liver, then it is called extrahepatic bile duct cancer.

ANGIOSARCOMA AND HEMANGIOSARCOMA

These two forms of liver cancer begin in the blood vessels of the liver. Both angiosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma are rare forms of cancer. However, they are also aggressive cancers. They both grow quickly. Likewise, they are both  very difficult to treat.

SECONDARY LIVER CANCER

Secondary liver cancers occurs when your cancer begins in another part of your body. For example, if you have lung, stomach, or breast cancer, and it spreads to your liver, then it is known as a secondary liver cancer. Secondary liver cancer is  often treated differently than primary liver cancer.

Liver cancer symptoms include abdominal pain and swelling and shoulder and back pain. It also includes bloating, nausea, weakness, fatigue,  and jaundice.

Jaundice causes yellow skin and yellow in the white of the eyes. Additionally symptoms include sudden weight loss, appetite loss, and vomiting. Fever and dark colored urine are also known common symptoms.

Unfortunately, liver cancer symptoms are not as severe during the early stages of the disease. Therefore, many liver cancers go undetected until it is too late to cure the disease.

END-STAGE LIVER DISEASE

The term “end-stage liver disease” means you have advanced liver disease. This is also known as liver failure. However, it is possible to have a liver transplant and reverse liver disease.

A liver transplant is only an option for some patients with liver cancer. Some people are not candidates for a transplant because of medical reasons or social reasons. It is up to the doctor who to recommend for the list.

Additionally, the number of people who qualify for a liver transplant is much greater than the number of donor organs that are available. Because of the wait time to obtain a liver transplant, approximately 14 percent of patients on the transplant waiting list die every year.

Similarly, 10 percent of those waiting are delisted throughout the year, as they become too ill to receive a transplant. Therefore, even though a liver transplant may be an option, most patients with liver cancer will die as a result of their condition.

LIVER CANCER TREATMENT

Liver cancer can only be cured when it is found in an early stage. Unfortunately, most forms of liver disease show no symptoms until it is too late to cure the condition. This leads to a poor prognosis for those who have liver cancer.

If you have liver cancer, then you may meet the liver cancer listing. SSA’s Listing 13.19 is for liver cancer.

SSA’S LISTING 13.19 FOR LIVER CANCER

13.19 Liver or gallbladder– cancer of the liver, gallbladder, or bile ducts.

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