Social Security Disability for Aplastic Anemia

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By Kimberly BishopFebruary 24, 2015

This post discusses Social Security Disability for Aplastic Anemia. The Bishop Law Firm has represented Social Security Disability clients in North Carolina since 2009. We do not get paid unless you win your case and we offer free case reviews. Start online now!

Social Security Disability Benefits

Social Security offers two types of disability benefits (generally): SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) and/or SSI (Supplemental Security Income). SSDI is based on the credits from the work that you have done in the last 10 years while SSI is a need based program.

When you apply for disability benefits at your local SSA office or online, SSA will make a initial determination as to whether you meet the eligibility criteria to apply for SSDI or SSI. If SSA determines that you are eligible for SSDI or SSI, they will allow you to file an application.

After you file your (initial) application, your case will be sent to your local version of Disability Determination Services (DDS). DDS will make a decision on your initial application by applying  Social Security's Five Step Sequential Evaluation Process.

  1. Step 1 – Are You Working?  The Social Security Administration defines work as “Substantial Gainful Activity” (SGA). SGA is roughly defined as work from earnings that average more than $1,470 (2023) a month. If you are making that amount you generally will not qualify for disability.
  2. Step 2 – Is Your Condition “Severe”? Severity is key when it comes to what qualifies as a disability. Severe is defined by the Social Security Administration as: your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered.
  3. Step 3 – Is Your Condition on the List of Disabling Conditions? The Listings are very hard to meet in most cases and not always interpreted as a common reading would suggest. If you meet a listing you are gravely ill. The listings are found here.
  4. Step 4 – Can You Do the Work You Did Previously? The Social Security Administration will look at your past work and determine if it was sedentary, light, medium, or heavy. They also will evaluate the skill level: unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled. For instance, an attorney would be sedentary skilled work.
  5. Step 5 – Can You Do Any Other Type of Work? If the Social Security Administration finds that you cannot do what you used to do, they then look to see if you can do anything else. This is where the “grids” come into play. The grids are the Medical-Vocational Guidelines. The grids are only for exertional impairments. Non-exertional impairments are not considered by the grids. If you are found to be capable of any other work, you will be found not disabled.

Most claimants are denied at the initial level by DDS. You must appeal this denial by filling out a SSA 3441 Appeal Form or appealing online within 60 days. After you appeal the denial, your case will be sent back to DDS for another examiner to look at your claim (the reconsideration level).

If you are denied at the reconsideration level, you will need to file another appeal which will request a hearing before an SSA Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Many claimants have to go before a ALJ to have their case approved. Do not be discouraged if you receive denials at the initial and reconsideration levels, as most people receive denials at these levels.

A hearing before the ALJ is where you have your best statistical chance of being approved for Social Security Disability benefits.

Also read NC Social Security Disability Lawyer for more information on the disability process

What is Aplastic Anemia?

Aplastic Anemia occurs when the body stops making enough new blood cells (leukopenia or neutropenia). This can be brief or chronic. Blood cells have important functions like carrying oxygen to your body and protecting you from infection.

Aplastic Anemia is considered to be an autoimmune disorder due to your immune system attacking the stem cells in your bone marrow. In essence, Aplastic Anemia deprives your body of its most sustaining resource (blood cells).

Causes of Aplastic Anemia can be identifiable (cancer treatment, exposure to toxins, certain pharmaceutical drugs, viral infections) or there may be no explanation for why a person has developed it. Inherited aplastic anemia is common in youth while acquired Aplastic Anemia usually is common in older adults.

Symptoms include fatigue, uncontrolled bleeding, shortness of breath, irregular heart rate, frequent infections, rashes, dizziness and headache. Via The Mayo Clinic.

A complete blood count (CBC) is usually the first test used to detect Aplastic Anemia. Also, a reticulocyte count (measures the number of young red blood cells in your blood) or bone marrow test can be done. Via the National Institutes of Health.

Treatment options include prescriptions that stimulate the production of blood cells, chemotherapy, stem cell or bone marrow transplant and blood transfusions.

Aplastic Anemia is broken into stages: moderate aplastic anemia (MA), severe aplastic anemia (SA), or very severe aplastic anemia (VSA). Severity can affect treatment options. Via Johns Hopkins.

Unfortunately, Aplastic Anemia can be fatal. In addition, since Aplastic Anemia can be caused by cancer treatments, an individual with cancer (who already has a debilitating health condition) can be weakened further by Aplastic Anemia.

Happily, modern medicine has made advances with bone marrow transplantation. Studies have reported survival rates of 70-90% of severe aplastic anemia patients after bone marrow transplant.

Social Security Disability for Aplastic Anemia

SSA has a special list of impairments called the Compassionate Allowance List. This list helps those with the named impairments qualify for benefits quickly. Aplastic Anemia is an impairment on  the Compassionate Allowance List.

Once SSA has determined that you have been diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia, they will then apply 7.17 Aplastic anemias with bone marrow or stem cell transplantation. This listing considers an individual disabled for 12 months following transplantation and thereafter based on the residual impairment.

But, what if you have not had a bone marrow or stem cell transplantation yet? The above listing is only one of the ways that the SSA can find you disabled based your Aplastic Anemia.

The Social Security Administration can also use the Medical Vocational Guidelines (Grid Rules) to determine if you are disabled from your Aplastic Anemia. If you are 50 years of age and older, and limited to sedentary work due to your Aplastic Anemia symptoms, you may be found disabled.

In my experience, clients with Aplastic Anemia suffer from severe exhaustion and shortness of breath that impairs the ability to work. Chemotherapy also causes terrible side effects and working is usually not even a consideration during this time.

Unfortunately, bone marrow transplants (bone marrow failure) do not work for everyone. For some, the treatment for Aplastic Anemia plus the disease itself can weaken their bodies significantly. As discussed above, radiation and chemotherapy can cause Aplastic Anemia and can be used to treat it as well.

Apply for SSA Disability Benefits

The first step in attaining disability benefits for Aplastic Anemia is to apply for benefits. If you have been diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia, or your doctor has told you that it is a possible diagnosis, you should apply for benefits as soon as possible. With appropriate treatment, you may be able to get back to work, but no one knows what the future holds. Putting a safety net in place for yourself or your loved ones is a priority.

The Bishop Law Firm represents Social Security Disability clients in RaleighDurhamFayettevilleCary, Rocky MountWilsonSmithfieldLouisburgChapel HillRoanoke Rapids , Winston SalemGarner, GreensboroGreenville and surrounding areas in North Carolina. We do not get paid unless you win and we offer free case reviews. Start your free case review online now!

Also read NC Social Security Disability Lawyer

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