I was recently asked to write about how Social Security views disability claims based on anemia and other blood disorders. First, I will address how Social Security generally handles disability claims. If that puts you to sleep, just skip ahead a few paragraphs
In general, Social Security reviews cases using the five-step sequential evaluation process:
- Does your impairment keep you from being able to work?
- Is your impairment severe. That is, does your impairment have more than a minimal at effect on your ability to perform daily activities?
- Does your impairment meet or equal one of Social Security’s “Listing of Impairments?” A listing of medical conditions, acceptable medical evidence, and the severity necessary for an impairment to be considered disabling.
- Does your impairment prevent you from being able to perform any job you performed over the last 15 years which was also a substantial gainful activity?
- Does your impairment prevent you from being able to perform any other type of work which exists in substantial numbers of the national economy?
This is just a quick rundown of the five-step sequential evaluation process. There are exceptions and corollaries to this but I just want to quickly state the steps that Social Security will go through in evaluating a disability claim.
Assuming that anemia and/or other blood disorder keeps you from being able to work (step one) and has more than a minimal impact on your ability to perform daily activities (step two), that brings us to step three: does the impairment meet or equal a listing level impairment.
Listing 7.02 Chronic Anemia, discusses how Social Security looks at anemia. You can read about how Social Security views other blood disorders here.
7.02 Chronic anemia (hematocrit persisting at 30 percent or less due to any cause) With:
A. Requirement of one or more blood transfusions on an average of at least once every 2 months; or
B. Evaluation of the resulting impairment under criteria for the affected body system.
You may look at this, and say to yourself,
Whoa! I don’t need blood transfusions every two months! Does that mean I am not disabled?”
No. Just because you do not meet one of the Social Security listing of impairments, does not mean that you are not disabled. It simply means that Social Security will probably not find the disabled at step three. Social Security may still find you disabled at steps four and five. This is where things really get interesting and a lawyer’s knowledge, experience and creativity come into play.
If you are skipping ahead, this is where you want to continue reading.
If the condition does not meet or equal one of the Social Security listing of impairments, the question becomes whether anemia, or another blood condition, keeps you from being able to do any job you have done over the past 15 years, and would keep you from being able to do any other kind of work.
In my experience, anemia may cause fatigue, loss of energy, loss of concentration, weakness, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, and/or abdominal pain. Some of these symptoms, such as weakness or shortness of breath, might limit the kind of work you would be able to perform, but might not eliminate your ability to do all kinds of work — in other words, it may not be enough to find you disabled.
For example: weakness or shortness of breath might make you unable to work on a construction site, but these symptoms might still allow you to do office work.
Along the same lines, loss of concentration might mean that you are no longer able to do some type of skilled work, because you are no longer able to focus long enough on a project to complete it. However, you may still be able to perform an unskilled job which does not require extended periods of concentration or attention.
The more important symptoms may be fatigue and loss of energy. These might make you unable to work any type of full-time job simply because you are unable to work for eight hours a day or 40 hours a week, or require frequent breaks, or make you frequently miss work (resulting in excessive absenteeism).
This is just a quick review of how Social Security may review an anemia case and some thoughts on how to build a disability claim based on anemia or other blood disorders. Please note, there is no one-size-fits-all plan for every case or every impairment. Every case is different. Everybody reacts to an impairment in their own individual way. I strongly recommend reviewing your case with an attorney to determine how best to pursue your case.