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Myelofibrosis

Does Myelofibrosis Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Considered a form of leukemia, myelofibrosis is a condition in which red blood cells mutate and pass on this mutation to new red blood cells. Eventually, with this condition, there is an imbalance between white blood cells and red blood cells. This leads to a number of debilitating symptoms. A partial list of symptoms includes fatigue and weakness, severe anemia, enlarged liver and frequent infections. Myelofibrosis, typically a progressive and degenerative disease, often develops into even more serious forms of leukemia. There is no definitive cure for myelofibrosis. The usual medical treatment involves medications, blood transfusions, and specific kinds of therapies. Stem cell replacement therapy is sometimes employed, but it can be risky and very often is not prescribed due to the patient’s age or other risk factors.

Because the symptoms of myelofibrosis can be very debilitating, those who suffer from it are often unable to work and may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Myelofibrosis is listed in the “Blue Book”, the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) list of disabling conditions. If an individual matches the requirements in the listings they will likely qualify for disability payments.

Listings, however, can be complicated and don’t always relate directly to a specific condition. Simply having a diagnosis of myelofibrosis does not qualify you for the two Social Security disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). In order to qualify, you must meet the criteria for one or more of the following:

  • Chronic anemia.
  • 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 incurable and there must be medical imaging evidence of osteosclerosis (abnormal hardening of bone) which is causing the pain.

Additionally, the SSA may consider a person disabled if their condition meets the listings for disability under one of the body organs affected by myelofibrosis—such as the spleen or liver which are often damaged by the disease. The results of medical imaging tests will be required to prove how the disease has damaged the applicant’s organs.

Very few people who apply for Social Security disability benefits meet the strict requirements of the Blue Book listings, but there is a second way to qualify—by an applicant proving that they are unable to perform any work due to a condition (or conditions) caused by their myelofibrosis, given their age, education, and past work experience.

Medical records are critically important in any disability case, as ultimately the main thing the SSA looks at is how an applicant’s medical condition functionally limits and interferes with their ability to work. In deciding disability, SSA determines a person’s “residual functional capacity” (RFC), meaning what a person can still do despite his or her medical impairments. To qualify for benefits, applicants must demonstrate that their symptoms prevent them from sustaining full-time, competitive employment on a consistent and reliable basis. The medical condition must be expected to last and keep a person out of work for at least 12 consecutive months.

An applicant will be denied benefits if they are judged by the SSA to be capable of performing any job—not just their last job—that is available in the country based on that person’s education and past work experience. However, applicants who are over 50 years old will not be expected to retrain for different work to the same extent as younger disabled workers.

If you’ve been diagnosed with myelofibrosis, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Call or email Nash Disability Law for a free evaluation of your situation. We can help you avoid costly disability mistakes.