In most cases, leukemia automatically qualifies for disability benefits for 12 to 24 months before a reevaluation of your eligibility is necessary. In other cases though, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must determine that you’ll be out of work for a year or longer.
This is because the SSA’s disability programs are only for those with severe impairments that prevent employment long-term.
Employment Limitations and Eligibility for Benefits
Standard treatment protocols for leukemia, including chemotherapy, radiation, and bone marrow transplants, can produce profound side effects and potential complications. A compromised immune system and frequent, opportunistic infections, for example, may make it impossible to reliably report to work. Nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and concentration problems can get in the way of central job duties in any position you may hold.
Treatment is often successful, but even returning to work following treatment may not be possible given the residual effects of the disease and anti-cancer protocols. When residual impairments result, the SSA will consider these in determining eligibility or continued eligibility for benefits after the initial 12 to 24 months of your benefit period expire.
Medical Evidence Evaluations and Eligibility
Although leukemia automatically qualifies for benefits under most circumstances, the SSA must still have appropriate evidence to back up your claim, including physical exam notes and treatment records.
While they will consider medical evidence from any physician, records carry the most weight when obtained from an oncologist or other specialist.
You’ll want to be sure the SSA has quick access to your blood test results, bone marrow biopsies, and pathology reports that document your formal diagnosis, including the grade, stage, and type of leukemia. Let your doctor know you’re planning to apply for benefits and that his or her responsiveness to SSA requests for records and information is critical to the outcome of your claim.
You should have doctor review the SSA’s leukemia disability listing, which appears in 13.06 of the Blue Book, a manual of impairments the SSA uses to evaluate disability eligibility. This listing provides the criteria for qualifying with acute, chronic myelogenous, blast phase, and chronic leukemia.
The beginning paragraphs of Section 13.00 additionally describe the kinds of medical records and documentation necessary for proving a disability claim, and your doctor is best equipped to interpret and understand the information that appears here.
Preparing to Apply for Benefits
Speed up the completion of all required forms and ensure you provide consistent and accurate details by gathering information prior to starting your application. You’ll need medical details, including contact information for all doctors, hospitals, and others that have treated you.
Pull together tax returns, old pay stubs, and current bank statements for answering financial questions, and be sure to get your employment history details in order too, including contact information for former employers, past job titles, and typical job duties you performed.
Contacting a disability attorney or advocate may be something to consider before applying too. He or she can help you understand the SSA’s disability programs, whether you will qualify, and for how long you may receive benefits before a re-evaluation of your eligibility is necessary.