Hematological (Blood) Disorders and Social Security Disability Benefits

Severe anemia, thrombocytopenia, hemophilia, and other blood diseases can qualify for disability benefits.

By , Attorney · Willamette University College of Law

When you file an application for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration (SSA), a Social Security claims examiner will determine if your impairments are severe enough to meet the requirements for disability. The clams will look at a manual called the Listing of Impairments to see if your impairment is listed in the manual. The manual discusses how medically severe a particular impairment must be to qualify as disabling (in Social Security lingo, to "meet the listing"). If your impairment is listed in the manual and exactly meets the criteria in the manual for severity, you will be found disabled.

The Listing of Impairments has a section dedicated to blood disorder impairments, also called hematological disorders, which we'll set out below. These listings requirements are for adults, but the childhood listings are similar.

Chronic Anemia

Anemia is a very common blood disorder but is usually treatable and seldom a basis for receiving disability benefits. But there are those with chronic anemia whose condition isn't improved with treatment. Those with severe anemia may be able to qualify for disability benefits. If you applied prior to May 2015, in order to meet the listing for anemia, you had to have a hematocrit persisting at 30% or less and you had to have had at least one blood transfusion once every two months (on average).

There is no longer a specific listing for anemia, but if you have repeated complications of anemia, such as severe fatigue and shortness of breath, you could qualify for benefits under listing 7.18.

Sickle Cell Disease and Variations

There are several different kinds of sickle cell diseases and variations, including sickle cell anemia and thalassemia.

In order to meet the listing for sickle cell disease or thalassemia, your disorder must include one of the following:

  • at least six documented painful thrombotic (also called vaso-occlusive) crises within 12 months
  • at least three periods of extended hospital stays within 12 months
  • chronic severe anemia with hemoglobin measurements of 7.0 g/dL or less, at least three times in 12 months, or
  • beta thalassemia major requiring life-long RBC transfusions at least once every six weeks.

Hemophilia, Thrombocytopenia, or Telangiectasia

There are several different kinds of hemophilia and other coagulation disorders, but they all share the characteristic that the person diagnosed cannot properly form blood clots. People with thrombocytopenia do not have enough platelets in their blood; since platelets help blood clot, if you have thrombocytopenia, you may have uncontrolled bleeding. To meet listing that applies to hemophilia, thrombocytopenia or telangiectasia, you must have had complications requiring hospitalization at least three times within a one-year period. The hospitalizations must each last 48 hours or more and occur at least 30 days apart.

Polycythemia Vera

This blood disorder causes your body to make too many blood cells. Polycythemia vera often results in other impairments, such as chronic heart failure. The SSA will evaluate any resulting impairments under the criteria for that affected body system (for example heart failure would be evaluated under the listings for the cardiovascular system).

Aplastic Anemia With Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Transplant

If you suffer from aplastic anemia and have had a bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant, you will automatically get disability benefits for 12 months following the transplantation.

    Each Case is Unique

    How your particular disorder relates to the above listings, and whether it can meet the requirements of the listing can be complex. You should speak with your doctor to better understand how your impairment fits into the specific criteria for the hematological listings.

    If you don't meet one of the above listings, you may still be able to get benefits based on limited functioning. Social Security understands that it cannot make a manual with every impairment listed. So if your impairment is not listed, or if it is listed but the severity of your condition does not exactly match the severity required in the listing, the claims examiner will determine whether there are any jobs you can be expected to do with your remaining functional capacity. For example, if you suffer from constant fatigue or frequent bleeding episodes, there may not be many jobs you can be expected to do.

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