Myelofibrosis and Social Security Disability

Myelofibrosis (myeloproliferative syndrome)

Myelofibrosis is a type of myeloproliferative syndrome. There are several types of myeloproliferative syndromes, but they all involve the bone marrow and the overproduction of blood cells. Myelofibrosis is a particularly serious form that causes the bone marrow to be replaced with fibrous tissue. This results in severe scarring, which in turn leads to a number of symptoms, including:

  • Weakness
  • Severe anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Enlarged liver
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Pale skin
  • Night sweats
  • Recurring and frequent infections
  • Deep bone pain
  • Paleness of skin
  • Recurring fever

Myelofibrosis is considered a form of leukemia. It sometimes occurs as a result of other bone marrow disorders. In other case, myelofibrosis occurs on its own. Myelofibrosis is typically progressive and degenerative and often leads to even more serious forms of leukemia.

The exact causes of myelofibrosis are unknown, though it is known to be the result of a genetic mutation of the blood stem cells. There is no definitive cure. Stem cell replacement has been used to some success in curing myelofibrosis, but the treatment carries a great deal of risk of its own. Most people who suffer from myelofibrosis are ineligible to receive stem cell replacement, for a number of reasons (age, deadly side effects, etc). Most treatments for myelofibrosis focus on treating the various symptoms. These include:

  • Blood transfusions
  • Medications, typically Thalidomide
  • Androgen therapy to stimulate production of red blood cells

The condition causes a mutation in red blood cells. These red blood cells pass on their mutation to newly created red blood cells, which results in an imbalance between red and white blood cells in the body.

Most people diagnosed with myelofibrosis are in their 50s and older, though the disease can strike younger people. Exposure to radiation and some kinds of chemicals like benzene and toluene are known to be risk factors for myelofibrosis.

When blood cells are formed outside of the bone marrow, they tend to create tumors, which may affect several areas of the body. Tumors caused by myelofibrosis are particularly likely to cause problems with the gastrointestinal system, causing:

  • Internal bleeding
  • Spinal compression
  • Seizures
  • Spitting up blood

There are a wide range of other complications that can result from myelofibrosis. In addition to the potential of developing more acute forms of leukemia, myelofibrosis sufferers typically have hardening or inflammation of the bones and gout.

Filing for Social Security Disability with a Myelofibrosis (myeloproliferative syndrome) Diagnosis

Myelofibrosis is listed in Section 7.10 of the Social Security Administration’s Manual of Impairment Listings (more commonly known as the Blue Book). Simply having a diagnosis of myelofibrosis does not qualify you for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income. In order to be considered disabled, you must meet the criteria for one or more of the following:

  • Chronic anemia. The specifics for evaluating chronic anemia are found in section 7.02 of the Blue Book.
  • Bacterial infections. You must have at least three infections during the five month span before benefits are awarded. They must be properly documented by your doctor.
  • Bone pain. This must be intractable (doctors can’t cure it) and there must be medical imaging evidence of the osteosclerosis which is causing the pain.

Additionally, the SSA may consider you disabled if your condition meets the listings for disability under one of the affected body organs or systems. In the case of myelofibrosis, the spleen and liver are the most commonly affected body organs, though the spine may be affected as well.

At a minimum, you will need to have medical documentation showing that you have been diagnosed with myelofibrosis. You will also want to include in your claims file any medical imaging tests that show the effects of the disabling condition on your body.

Your Myelofibrosis Disability Case

The main thing the SSA is trying to determine when they consider your claim is whether or not you remain capable of performing any kind of meaningful, gainful work. You do not need to be capable of performing your last job in order to be denied benefits. You simply need to be capable of performing any job that is available in the country to a person of your education and expertise.

If you are over 50 (and most myelofibrosis sufferers are), you will not be expected to be able to retrain for different work on the level that younger workers claiming disability would need to be. Generally, the SSA will look at the work you have performed in the past fifteen years and determine if you are still capable of performing work that is like any of those jobs.

The Social Security Disability system can be confusing. Over 70% of initial applications are denied, often for reasons that could have been addressed if the claimant had known how to properly file his or her disability claim. Most claimants find an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer to be well worth the investment (especially since there is no cost unless you receive benefits).

To have a Social Security Disability attorney or advocate review and evaluate your disability claim, fill out the request for a free evaluation form included on this web page today.