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September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month

September is generally the time of year that evokes thoughts of fall and back to school. However, it is also significant for another reason. September is the month that we bring awareness to cancers involving the blood and bone marrow. Specifically, we recognize September as National Leukemia, Lymphoma, & Myeloma Awareness month.

Why an Awareness Month for Blood Cancers?

Currently, there are 1.3 million people in the United States living with or in remission from a hematologic malignancy, or blood cancer. In fact, blood cancers are the third leading cause of cancer death in America, with a new diagnosis being made every 3 minutes.

September has been designated as the month to bring awareness to the three most common blood cancers. Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood, lymphoma is a cancer that starts in cells that are part of the body’s immune system, and myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells. September is the month to help raise awareness, funds, and support for the many people who are impacted by the disease.

leukemia disability benefits

How Can Someone with Blood Cancer Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?

The health implications of blood cancer can be debilitating and even lethal in some cases. Individuals with cancer of the blood often suffer from extreme fatigue, frequent infections, and excessive bleeding. To compound the problem, the side effects of the necessary treatments also add to the problem. As a result, many individuals with blood cancer are unable to continue working.

To be approved for SSDI benefits for any of the above-listed cancers, individuals first need to have a physician-confirmed diagnosis as evidenced by extensive blood lab work, urine protein electrophoresis, or bone marrow findings.

The SSA uses a medical guide, known as the Blue Book, to determine which conditions are severe enough to warrant disability payments. Each section of the Blue Book lists specific diseases, as well as the criteria and symptoms that you must have to be approved. Cancers of the blood are evaluated under section 13.00 of the Blue Book, Malignant Neoplastic Diseases.

Lymphoma is listed in section 13.05, Leukemia is contained in section 13.06 of the Blue Book, and Myeloma is listed in section 13.07.

In addition to providing evidence of diagnosis, those suffering from hematological cancer will need to show documentation of the type of treatment that they have received, as well as their response to the treatment. As a general rule, most types of blood cancers are approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits for at least two years. Those who have required a bone marrow transplant will be considered disabled for at least one year from the date of the transplant.

Due to the fast progression of many blood-based cancers, several are also listed on the SSA’s Compassionate Allowance list. As such, the SSA will expedite claims involving cancers such as acute leukemia and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, to name a few.

What If I Don’t Meet or Match a Blue Book Listing for Blood Cancer?

Some individuals will not meet the Blue Book Listing for their blood cancer. However, they still may be unable to adequately function in their current job. If this is the situation for you, it is possible that you could qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) through a medical-vocational allowance.

If you have a blood cancer diagnosis that does not meet a Blue Book Listing, the SSA will perform a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment to determine your physical and mental limitations based on your disease. In addition, the reviewer will take into account any side-effects and response to treatment. Your RFC evaluation will help to determine the most amount of work that the SSA feels you are capable of performing.

For example, individuals undergoing chemotherapy for their blood cancers may suffer from some severe side-effects, such as excessive weight loss. While weight loss alone would not qualify you for SSDI benefits, if the weight loss is contributing to extreme fatigue, making it difficult to do your job, you might be eligible for a medical-vocational allowance.

How Do I Start the Disability Application Process for Blood Cancer?

If you have been diagnosed with any type of blood cancer, you should begin the disability application process immediately. As mentioned above, there is a high likelihood that you might qualify for a Compassionate Allowance, thus expediting your application.

An experienced Social Security attorney or disability advocate can assist you in determining what medical records you need and what you have on hand, as well your chances of winning your Disability claim for your blood-related cancer diagnosis.

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