Receiving Social Security Disability for Sickle Cell Disease

Between 70,000 and 100,000 people are affected by sickle cell anemia in the U.S. today, according to the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America. The organization estimates that about 1,000 babies born in America each year will have sickle cell disease. Sickle cell disease is an inherited trait that can lead to debilitating physical complications.

By the time one is an adult, the effects of sickle cell disease can interfere with the person’s ability to work. If you have sickle cell disease and it is affecting your ability to work, you could qualify to receive Social Security Disability (SSDI).

What is Sickle Cell Disease?

Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder affecting a person’s red blood cells which carry oxygen throughout the body. Those with sickle cell disease produce abnormal shaped red blood cells, “sickle” shaped, that break down faster than normal. The blood cells’ change in shape can cause them not flow through smaller blood vessels as easily which can cause blockages. The blockages can cause episodic and chronic pain and over time tissue damage. Also, the faster breaking down of the blood cells can cause anemia.

There are different types of sickle cell disease which can affect those with it differently. Some of the most common constant symptoms of sickle cell disease are:

  • fatigue
  • excessive thirst
  • frequent urination
  • rapid heartbeat
  • poor eyesight
  • bone, chest, and abdominal pain
  • difficulty breathing

Those with sickle cell disease can also suffer more severe reoccurring problems called crises. The crises can affect sufferers differently in length, severity, and frequency. The four common types of crises are:

  • Aplastic crisis – a decrease in red blood cells which affects the body’s functioning and causes fatigue and rapid heart rate
  • Hemolytic crisis – a rapid decrease in red blood cells which can cause kidney damage
  • Splenic Sequestration crisis – an enlargement of the spleen causing a hardening of the abdomen and severe pain
  • Vaso-occlusive (thrombotic) crisis – a restriction and blood flow to the organs which can be very painful and cause organ damage

Sickle cell disease can also cause other major complications such as:

  • skin ulcers
  • bone infections
  • gallstones
  • hypertension
  • stroke
  • blindness

SSDI and Sickle Cell Disease

The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a 5 step process to determine a claimant’s eligibility for disability benefits. Those seeking disability benefits for sickle cell disease will go through the following process:

  1. Determine if the claimant is working at or above the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level as defined by the SSA in the year they file. The SGA level for 2018 is a monthly income of $1180.
  2. Determine if the claimant’s complications from sickle cell disease significantly limit their ability to perform basic work activities such as:
  • sitting
  • standing
  • reaching
  • pulling or pushing
  • lifting or carrying
  • simple cognitive reasoning
  1. Determine if the claimant’s issues with sickle cell disease meet the criteria outlined in the SSA’s impairments list.

      To meet the SSA’s sickle cell disease impairments listing a claimant must show medical proof of diagnosis with one of the following:

  • A painful sickle cell crisis that required an injection or IV administration of narcotics, at least six times in the previous 12 months, with each crisis occurring at least 30 days apart.
  • Severe anemia complications which required at least 3 hospital stays within the previous 12 months, lasting a minimum of 48 hours and at least 30 days apart.
  • Chronic anemia with hemoglobin measurements 7.0 g/dL or less, at least three times within the previous 12 months and at least 30 days apart.
  • Beta thalassemia major which is a condition requiring a lifelong red blood cell transfusions at least once every 6 weeks.

      Claimants could also qualify under the listings of other complications that may be caused by their sickle cell disease such as:

  • Stroke
  • Heart Failure
  • Kidney Failure
  • Vision Problems
  • Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Transplantation
  1. Determine if the claimant can do any work they may have done in the past despite their complications from sickle cell disease.
  2. Determine if the claimant can do any other type of work based on their:
  • age
  • education
  • prior work experience
  • mental and physical capabilities

Getting Help with Your Claim

Do you have sickle cell disease? Does it interfere with your ability to work? If so, you might be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits.

Getting approval for sickle cell disease SSDI claim can be complicated. You must have sufficient medical evidence of your difficulties with sickle cell disease and evidence of how it affects your daily life. But, an experienced SSDI lawyer can help you gather the documents you need and guide you through the process. In fact, studies show that having the help of an attorney can increase your chances of benefit approval. Contact us for a free evaluation of your situation to let us see if we can get you the help you need.