Patients with central nervous system (CNS) cancers may be eligible for disability benefits, and there are several steps health care providers can take to help patients navigate the application process, according to a poster presentation at the Society for Neuro-Oncology 27th Annual Meeting.

The poster authors noted that, in the United States, patients with 11 types of CNS cancers are approved for Social Security disability benefits without having to show that they are unable to work.

These cancers include grade III-IV astrocytoma, bilateral retinoblastoma, chondrosarcoma treated with multimodal therapy, choroid plexus carcinoma, ependymoblastoma, glioblastoma multiforme, grade III-IV glioma, malignant brain stem gliomas, medulloblastoma with metastases, grade III oligodendroglioma, and secondary adenocarcinoma of the brain.

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Patients with other CNS cancers may be eligible for disability benefits as well, but eligibility is influenced by a variety of factors.  

About Disability Programs

The authors explained that the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is for medically disabled patients who have limited current income and savings. This program provides up to $771 per month as well as access to Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program is for medically disabled patients who have a history of work. This program provides up to $2861 per month, Medicare coverage, and retroactive payments as far back as 1 year.

Patients eligible to apply for SSDI benefits have worked 5 of the last 10 years and paid into social security, currently earn less than $1310 per month, have a medical condition that interferes with work-related activities (eg, walking, standing, lifting, pushing, carrying, or speaking), and have a medical condition that is listed as a disability in the Blue Book.

How Providers Can Help Patients

The authors recommended that providers refer patients to a social worker, case manager, or disability claims representative to obtain help filling out disability applications. Providers should also make themselves available to speak with any Disability Determinations Services workers who may contact them to speak about a pending application.

The authors noted that documenting the patient’s diagnosis is key, as patients with the aforementioned 11 CNS cancers automatically qualify for disability benefits. Providers should note the tumor location and treatment status, as progression or recurrence might allow a patient to qualify for disability benefits.

Providers should also document patient deficits such as fatigue, inability to sit or walk, and loss of vision, hearing, or memory. Any signs or symptoms of the tumor or from other comorbidities should be documented, the authors advised.

“Referrals to neuropsychology, epilepsy, and other specialties can produce better documentation of symptoms in various systems,” the authors noted.

Providers should not label the patient as disabled in the documentation, the authors emphasized. The Social Security Administration, not the health care provider, determines whether the patient is classified as disabled for benefit purposes.

The authors also advised against including out-of-date information about patients or using ambiguous terms, such as “stable” or “doing well,” which may minimize the patient’s deficits.

“Providers are better able to help their patients navigate the disability application process when they understand how to address physical and cognitive changes for thorough care of their patient,” the authors concluded.

Disclosures: One poster author, Drew Yeannakis, is the founder of Disability Claims Representatives. The other authors declared no conflicts of interest.


Yogendran L, Rudolf M, Yeannakis D, Fuchs K, Schiff D. Navigating disability insurance for patients diagnosed with low-grade glioma. Presented at SNO 2022; November 16-20, 2022. Abstract QOL-09.