Facts about Aplastic Anemia and Filing for Disability

These selected pages answer some of the most basic, but also some of the most important, questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim for disability benefits.

  • How to apply for disability and the information that Social Security needs

  • Who will qualify for disability and what qualifying is based on

  • Requirements for disability - Qualifications Criteria for SSD and SSI

  • How to Prove you are disabled and win your disability benefits

  • Facts about the condition

    1. A rare blood disorder, aplastic anemia is a type of anemia that is characterized by the lack of sufficient new blood cells being produced by bone marrow; this includes a lack of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

    2. Aplastic anemia may come on progressively and slowly, or rapidly and suddenly. Some people may have the disorder for a very short time, and some people may find the disorder becomes chronic. It may be mild or severe, and left untreated it can be fatal and cause rapid death.

    3. Aplastic anemia occurs in response to damage to the bone marrow. This damage can be caused by a number of things, from chemotherapy, exposure to toxins, viral infections and pregnancy, to certain medications, and autoimmune disorders. An inherited disease, Fanconi's anemia, may also lead to aplastic anemia.

    4. Bone marrow biopsy and blood tests are used to help diagnose aplastic anemia.

    5. A rare disorder, paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, is present in about 30 percent of those who have aplastic anemia.

    6. Aplastic anemia is sometimes mistakenly confused as myelodysplastic syndrome. In aplastic anemia the bone marrow is empty or has very little blood cells, while in myelodysplastic syndrome the bone marrow is usually packed with blood cells, but in some cases the marrow may be empty. The two disorders are hard to tell apart in the circumstance when myelodysplastic syndrome causes empty bone marrow.

    7. Symptoms for aplastic anemia include pale skin, fatigue, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, infections that reoccur or prolonged, skin rash, headache, easy bruising, bleeding gums, dizziness, and nosebleeds.

    8. Treatment depends upon the severity of the case of aplastic anemia, but may include the following: blood transfusion, bone marrow transplantation, immunosuppressants, corticosteroids, bone marrow stimulants, antivirals, and antibiotics - although some cases may improve on their own, especially when caused by chemotherapy, radiation treatments, or certain medications.

    Qualifying for disability benefits with this condition

    Whether or not you qualify for disability and, as a result, are approved for disability benefits will depend entirely on the information obtained from your medical records.

    This includes whatever statements and treatment notes that may have been obtained from your treating physician (a doctor who has a history of treating your condition and is, therefore, qualified to comment as to your condition and prognosis). It also includes discharge summaries from hospital stays, reports of imaging studies (such as xrays, MRIs, and CT scans) and lab panels (i.e. bloodwork) as well as reports from physical therapy.

    In many disability claims, it may also include the results of a report issued by an independent physician who examines you at the request of the Social Security Administration.

    Qualifying for SSD or SSI benefits will also depend on the information obtained from your vocational, or work, history if you are an adult, or academic records if you are a minor-age child. In the case of adults, your work history information will allow a disability examiner (examiners make decisions at the initial claim and reconsideration appeal levels, but not at the hearing level where a judges decides the outcome of the case) to A) classify your past work, B) determine the physical and mental demands of your past work, C) decide if you can go back to a past job, and D) whether or not you have the ability to switch to some type of other work.

    The important thing to keep in mind is that the social security administration does not award benefits based on simply having a condition, but, instead, will base an approval or denial on the extent to which a condition causes functional limitations. Functional limitations can be great enough to make work activity not possible (or, for a child, make it impossible to engage in age-appropriate activities).

    Why are so many disability cases lost at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels?

    There are several reasons but here are just two:

    1) Social Security makes no attempt to obtain a statement from a claimant's treating physician. By contrast, at the hearing level, a claimant's disability attorney or disability representative will generally obtain and present this type of statement to a judge.

    Note: it is not enough for a doctor to simply state that their patient is disabled. To satisy Social Security's requirements, the physician must list in what ways and to what extent the individual is functionally limited. For this reason, many representatives and attorneys request that the physician fill out and sign a specialized medical source statement that captures the correct information. Solid Supporting statements from physicians easily make the difference between winning or losing a disability case at the hearing level.

    2) Prior to the hearing level, a claimant will not have the opportunity to explain how their condition limits them, nor will their attorney or representative have the opportunity to make a presentation based on the evidence of the case. This is because at the initial levels of the disability system, a disability examiner decides the case without meeting the claimant. The examiner may contact the claimant to gather information on activities of daily living and with regard to medical treatment or past jobs, but usually nothing more. At the hearing level, however, presenting an argument for approval based on medical evidence that has been obtained and submitted is exactly what happens.

    About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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