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Myelodysplastic Syndromes and Disability Benefits

Myelodysplastic Syndromes and Disability Benefits: What You Need to Know

As the name suggests, myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are not a single disease. They are a group of illnesses that prevent your bone marrow from producing a sufficient number of healthy blood cells. Instead of developing normally, your blood cells die in the marrow or soon after being released into the bloodstream.

Over time, the defective blood cells created by myelodysplastic syndromes may cause symptoms such as fatigue, anemia, shortness of breath, tendency to bruise and bleed easily, frequent infections and petechiae (red spots beneath the skin).

Treatment includes blood cell transfusions, bone marrow stem cell transplants, and medications intended to increase the number of healthy blood cells in your system.

MDS can grow more severe over time, and even develop into an aggressive leukemia known as acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). A confirmed diagnosis also makes you eligible for Social Security disability benefits, as MDS is recognized as a disabling condition.

Medically Qualifying with Myelodysplastic Syndromes

Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) is listed in the Blue Book, which is the SSA catalog of disabling conditions. It is specifically referenced in Listing 7:10- Disorders of Bone Marrow Failure. To medically qualify, the following conditions must be applicable in your case.

  • Bone marrow failure complications that require a minimum of three hospitalizations occurring within a 12-month period and at least 30 days apart. Each incident must last for at least 48 hours (may include time spent in the emergency ward before hospitalization)


  • Myelodysplastic syndromes requiring lifelong red blood cell transfusions at least once every six weeks to keep you alive If you receive a bone marrow stem cell transplant, the SSA will consider you disabled for at least 12 consecutive months from the date the transplant took place. Your application for disability benefits must be accompanied by the following information from your doctor:
  • The methods of diagnosis: must be peripheral blood smears accompanied by bone marrow aspiration OR bone marrow biopsy
  • The treatments you have received (medications, bone marrow stem cell transplants, red blood cell transfusions)
  • Records of hospitalization due to MDS complications

Your doctor will also complete a residual functional capacity (RFC) form that documents the ways that MDS has limited your ability to function and work.

If the SSA determines that your MDS symptoms do not qualify you for a listing, you may still be awarded disability benefits under a medical vocational allowance system.

Getting Help with Your Myelodysplastic Syndromes Claim

Don’t be discouraged if your application for disability benefits is rejected the first time you apply, as this is practically routine even for conditions that meet a Blue Book listing. Instead, be prepared to request reconsideration and even file an appeal.

A Social Security disability attorney will help increase your chances of a successful application by protecting you from errors that hurt your chances of acceptance, ensuring that your application is filed early, and presenting a strong case for you. When you have a professional who is knowledgeable about the Social Security disability system and knows what it takes to win, peace of mind will follow.