Social Security Disability Benefits for Leukemia

Definition

Leukemia is a rare form of blood cancer that is caused when your body produces abnormal white blood cells, and to many of them. White blood cells are responsible for fighting infections in the body. However, the abnormal amount of white blood cells that form in people with Leukemia make it difficult for your red blood cells and your platelets to form and function normally.

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Red blood cells make oxygen and platelets make sure your blood does not clot. The extra white blood cells do not fully mature—and cannot perform their function—but they live longer than normal ones should. As more and more produce, they begin to spread through your body and stop other blood cells from working.

Without other blood cells working, your blood thins out and you become anemic; you are also more prone to increased bruising, bleeding, and infection.

Leukemia is classified in two different ways. First, does the cancer grow quickly or slowly? If it grows quickly, it is called ‘acute’. If it grows slowly, it is called ‘chronic’. Here is the difference between the two:

  • Acute leukemia is rapid. White blood cells begin to multiply before they are completely mature. If left untreated, it can be deadly within a couple of months.
  • Chronic leukemia can last for many years. These cells mature a slightly, but not all the way. They do not fight infections and begin to push aside regular cells.

The second way that leukemia is classified is based on where it starts. Leukemia begins in the bone marrow, but the bone marrow has a few jobs. It forms red blood cells, platelets, and some kinds of white blood cells. If the cancer starts where only white blood cells are formed, it is called ‘lymphocitic’. If the cancer starts where red blood cells and platelets are formed, it is called ‘myelogenous’ or myeloid leukemia.

These are the four main types of leukemia and a description of each one:

  • Acute myeloid leukemia
  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)

Acute means quickly and myeloid is the type of cells where the leukemia begins. AML begins in the bone marrow, multiplies, and crowds out other cells until it moves to the blood. Once it infects the blood, it targets your organs. This cancer can develop from other cells beyond white blood cells.

Symptoms

  • Weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)

ALL develops in lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. This type of cancer mainly affects the bone marrow and blood.

Symptoms

  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Heavy nosebleeds
  • Bone pain
  • Bleeding from gums
  • Paleness
  • Swollen lymph nodes (lumps around neck, abdomen, groin, underarm)

Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)

CML starts in myeloid cells that eventually become white blood cells. It progresses more slowly than AML and has slightly different symptoms.

Symptoms

  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Paleness
  • Fatigue
  • Easy bleeding

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)

There are two different types of CLL. One grows slowly and therefore does not need immediate treatment. The other is more serious because it grows quickly. CLL starts in cells that become lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.

Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Night Sweats
  • Fever
  • Stomach pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes in neck, stomach, groin, or armpits

Disability Benefits for Leukemia

To qualify for disability benefits, you must meet the Social Security disability listing for leukemia.

You must have one of these types of leukemia:

  • Acute myeloid leukemia
  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (a) in an accelerated phase or (b) which gets worse even after treatments

If your type of diagnosed leukemia does not meet the above standards, don’t dismiss your claim. If you feel that you cannot work your job (need constant breaks, can’t lift heavy objects, etc.) because of your disease, the SSA will consider your application.

Medical Evidence

You must be able to prove with objective medical evidence the severity of your leukemia. You will also have to show which treatments you have had. You will need to provide operative notes and pathology reports. If these are unavailable, you can provide medical reports instead. Here are three important things to know:

  • Evidence for acute leukemia must include a bone marrow exam.
  • Evidence for chronic myeloid leukemia must include a chromosome analysis that proves a Philadelphia chromosome.
  • Evidence for chronic lymphocytic leukemia must include lymphocytic lab results of 10,000/mm3 for at least three months.

Sources: Cancer.orgMayoClinicWebMD