Lymphoma: When Disability Benefits Are Available

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Hodgkin’s disease are both listed disabilities in the Social Security Administration's "blue book" of disability listings.

Lymphoma is the result of a cancerous tumor that affects the lymphatic system. Lymphomas are usually divided into two categories: Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s disease. Only 1% of lymphomas are Hodgkin's lymphoma. Generally, Hodgkin’s disease affects younger individuals and responds well to treatment. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma usually affects middle-aged individuals and is more difficult to treat.

Symptoms of lymphoma can include weight loss, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, fever, anemia, and weakness. Treatment options for lymphoma usually include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgical procedures, and other biological therapies, such as interferon. 

Disability Benefits for Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Hodgkin’s disease are both listed disabilities in the Social Security Administration's "blue book" of disability listings, under Listing 13.05.

To be automatically approved for disability based on non-Hodgkin's lymphoma under Listing 13.05, you must be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that is either:

  • Aggressive lymphoma (or diffuse large B-cell lymphoma) that does not go away after an initial round of chemo or radiation, or
  • Indolent lymphoma (or mycosis fungoides or follicular small cleaved cell lymphoma) that requires more than one round of chemo or radiation within one year.

In addition, if your lymphoma required a bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant, you will automatically be approved for benefits for one year.

To be approved for disability based on Hodgkin's disease, you need to have lymphoma that doesn't go into complete remission or that returns within one year of finishing chemo or radiation.

To provide the Social Security Administration (SSA) with evidence of the above criteria, you or your doctor must provide tissue or lab reports and imaging reports to the SSA, and your doctor's records should include a description of how advanced your cancer is and how it has reacted to treatment.

Lymphoma That Doesn't Meet the SSA's Listing Requirements

Lymphoma that doesn’t meet any of the above listing requirements may still qualify for disability benefits if your symptoms or the side effects of medication severely limit your activities and abilities.

If your lymphoma or treatment causes fatigue that requires you to take frequent rest breaks or that interferes with your ability to keep up with the pace a job requires, you are limited in the types of jobs you can do. Similarly, pain from surgery to remove lymph nodes can be limiting in how much activity you can do, how much weight you can lift, and whether you have full range of motions move your arms and legs.

 The SSA is required to consider these functional limitations if they are written down in your disability application or your doctor's records. The SSA will create an assessment of your "residual functional capacity," or RFC, that pulls together these limitations in one place.

If your RFC shows that you can't do your prior job, or if you can't do any other work, based on your job skills and education, the SSA will approve you for disability benefits. However, whether the SSA believes you can do other work will depend a great deal on your age. For more information, see our articles on RFCs and medical-vocational allowances.

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