If the symptoms and treatment of your leukemia make it impossible for you to work or engage in everyday activities, you may be eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.
To qualify for SSA disability benefits, you must be able to prove that your leukemia-related impairments meet the criteria as listed under Malignant Neoplastic Diseases listing Section 13.06 of the SSA’s Blue Book Listing of Impairments.
What Is Leukemia?
Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow that affects both adults and children. When a person has leukemia, their bone marrow produces abnormal cells that begin to outnumber and replace their normal red and white blood cells, blood platelets and marrow cells.
Leukemia symptoms can include fever, fatigue, weight loss, frequent infections, and easy bleeding or bruising.
There are two types of leukemia recognized by the SSA under Section 13.06:
- Acute, in which there is a rapid onset of the disease; and
- Chronic, in which noticeable symptoms may not appear until after the disease has advanced to a certain stage.
SSDI for Acute Leukemia
Acute leukemia (including T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma) is a fast-growing cancer that starts in the myeloid cells, platelets, or white blood cells. (Also known as acute myelogenous or myeloblastic leukemia.)
You will be considered to be disabled for at least 24 months from the date of your diagnosis or relapse. If you have a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, you will be considered disabled for 12 months following the date of surgery or 24 months from the date of diagnosis, whichever is later.
SSDI for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia.
Like acute leukemia, chronic leukemia begins in the myeloid cells, blood platelets, and white blood cells; unlike the acute type, chronic leukemia develops slowly, over time. (Also known as chronic myelogenous or myeloblastic leukemia.)
During the accelerated or blast phase of the disease, you will be considered disabled until at least 24 months from the date of diagnosis or relapse, or at least 12 months from the date of a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, whichever is later.
During the disease’s chronic phase, you will be considered disabled:
- Until at least 12 months from the date of bone marrow or stem cell transplant. From that time forward, SSA will evaluate any residual impairment(s) under the criteria for the affected body system; or
- Your leukemia continues to progress after initial therapy to inhibit or prevent the growth and spread of malignant cells or tumors.
Evidence You’ll Need to Support Your Claim for Disability Benefits for Leukemia
In order to be approved for Social Security disability benefits, you’ll have to submit evidence supporting your claim. Some of the factors the SSA will consider when making their decision include:
- The origin of your cancer.
- The extent of your cancer.
- The duration, frequency, and response to anticancer therapy.
- The effects of any post-therapeutic residuals.
To make their decision, the SSA requires medical evidence that specifies the type, extent, and site of the primary, recurrent, or metastatic lesion. If the primary site cannot be identified, they’ll accept evidence documenting the site(s) of metastasis to evaluate the impairment under 13.27 (Primary Site Unknown).
For operative procedures, the SSA will need a biopsy or a needle aspiration, submitted with an operative note as well as a pathology report. If this evidence is not available, the SSA will accept the summary of hospitalization(s) or other medical reports. This evidence needs to include details of the findings at surgery and, whenever appropriate, the pathological findings.
The SSA may also need evidence about recurrence, persistence, or progression of your leukemia, the response to therapy, and any significant residuals.
Compassionate Allowance for Leukemia
Depending on the severity of your disease, you may qualify for the SSA’s Compassionate allowances program. The Compassionate Allowances program accelerates claims where the applicant’s disease or condition clearly meets Social Security’s standard for disability. The following forms of leukemia are subject to a fast award of disability benefits:
- Acute Leukemia
- Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) – Blast Phase
- Leukemia treated by bone marrow or stem cell transplantation
Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) Assessment for Leukemia
Even if your leukemia disability doesn’t qualify for the Compassionate Allowances program or you don’t meet or equal the SSA Listing of Impairments for leukemia, you may still qualify for disability benefits. The SSA will require a “Residual Functional Capacity” (RFC) assessment to determine your mental and physical capabilities. To pass the RFC assessment, you’ll have to demonstrate that the limitations resulting from your disease, treatment and medications as well as any other impairment secondary to the leukemia prevent you from performing work of just about any kind.
Discuss Your Leukemia Disability Claim with a Board-Certified Social Security Attorney
Has your Social Security disability benefits claim for leukemia been denied? In many instances, a claim is denied not because the applicant doesn’t deserve the benefits, but because they simply failed to provide the SSA with the information they require to approve a disability claim. Good news: this isn’t the end of the process. The law gives you the right to appeal the SSA’s decision.
Marc Whitehead is a board-certified Social Security attorney who has been practicing law for nearly 30 years. His law firm, Marc Whitehead & Associates, has helped thousands of disabled Americans file applications for and appeal denials of Social Security disability benefits.
Contact the law offices of Marc Whitehead & Associate through our website or call us toll-free at 800-562-9830 or request a free consultation with an experienced Social Security lawyer to discuss your leukemia disability claim.