Polycythemia vera is a rare condition in which the bone marrow makes too many red blood cells. As a result, the blood is thicker than normal, causing several possible life-threatening complications.
Some individuals have mild symptoms that barely impact their life. However, as this is a progressive disease, chances are that your health will decline over time. While you may be able to work initially, there is a high likelihood that you may have difficulty as the disease progresses.
If you have been diagnosed with polycythemia vera, you might qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. Further, if you are over the age of 50, your likelihood of approval goes up substantially.
The older that you are, the less that the Social Security Administration (SSA) expects you be able to adapt to new job requirements. The SSA recognizes that as we age, it becomes increasingly challenging to learn a job.
Further, employers are often less willing to hire older individuals, especially if they have a significant health problem. As a result, the SSA lowers the bar regarding the amount of retraining that an applicant would be expected to perform as they age.
Polycythemia vera affects several body systems, including the heart, lungs, and digestive system. It is imperative that you provide sufficient medical evidence to the SSA, illustrating any medical complications caused by your polycythemia vera.
While your polycythemia vera alone may not qualify you for Disability benefits, the combination of your health complications might.
Grid Rules and Polycythemia Vera
If you are over the age of 50 and your polycythemia vera does not meets the severity of any medical listing, the SSA will attempt to apply one of the “grid rules.” The grid rules, also called the medical-vocational guidelines, take into account your age, your level of education, your skills and their transferability, as well as any past work that you have done in the last 15 years.
The SSA will utilize your residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment to determine the level of work exertion that you are able to perform, ranging from sedentary work to very heavy work. The RFC that you are assigned will dictate which grid is used to evaluate your work ability.
What Type of Work Can Someone with Polycythemia Vera Do?
The type of work that you will be able to do with polycythemia vera will depend entirely on the severity of your illness. Early in your diagnosis, you may be able to continue working at your current job.
Common symptoms include frequent headaches, dizziness, weakness, numbness or tingling in the arms and legs, and excessive fatigue, just to name a few.
If you suffer from weakness or numbness in your legs, it might be difficult to perform a job that requires you standing on your feet for extended periods of time, such as a security guard. It may also be difficult to perform job duties that require attention to detail or concentration, such as a nurse.
According to the SSA’s grid rules, a 50-year-old dishwasher with a high school diploma will be more likely to qualify for SSDI benefits than a 45-year-old college-educated teacher.
Meeting a Blue Book Listing for Polycythemia Vera
The SSA uses a medical guide, known as the Blue Book, to determine whether or not a condition such as polycythemia vera is severe enough to warrant disability payments.
Polycythemia vera is a blood disorder that is mentioned in the Hematological Section 7.00 of the Blue Book. However, the SSA evaluates polycythemia vera based on related body systems affected by the disease.
Therefore, it is possible that you might meet a listing in the Respiratory system (3.00), Cardiovascular system (4.00) or Digestive system (5.00) of the Blue Book. For example, polycythemia vera sometimes causes shortness of breath and difficulty breathing when lying down. If this is the case for you, you might meet a listing in the respiratory section 3.00, of the Blue Book.
It is entirely possible that you might match several listings in the Blue Book, in which case your Social Security evaluator will take all of your symptoms together to make a decision.
Qualifying When You Don’t Meet The Listing
The Blue Book, which is the medical guide used by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to determine if a claimant is disabled, has listings with specific criteria that must be met to be approved for disability benefits. If you are disabled, but don’t meet the criteria of the listing, you can still be approved using a medical vocational allowance accompanied by a residual functional capacity (RFC) form.
With this condition, your body creates too many platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells. The condition can be so serious that it leads to death. Depending on the severity of the condition and other factors, the average life expectancy with the condition after diagnosis is 20 years.
An RFC should be completed by your treating physician and it should be filled out in detail, explaining all your restrictions and limitations. Your age, overall health, blood cell counts, treatment response, and lifestyle choices all affect the disease and its long-term outlook.
Your RFC will detail your restrictions and limitations. Some of the symptoms that you may suffer from the condition include dizziness, headaches, shortness of breath, red skin, numbness and tingling in the extremities, chronic fatigue, abdominal bloating, and itchy skin after bathing.
If the condition isn’t treated properly, it can cause life-threatening blood clots, peptic ulcers, an enlarged spleen, gout, open sores in the small intestine, and other conditions. The RFC should indicate how long you can stand, how much you can lift, how far you can walk, if you can bend or squat, if you can reach or grasp, and so forth.
As an example, with polycythemia vera you may not be able to stand more than an hour because of numbness and tingling in the extremities. You may not be able to bend or squat because of that as well. Because of dizziness and headaches, you may not be able to work around machinery or operate heavy equipment. You may not be able to work as a delivery driver or even drive a vehicle at all.
Shortness of breath may keep you from being able to work near inhalants or dust. The chronic fatigue and intestinal issues may keep you from being able to stay in one position or from being able to perform many routine tasks. Because of skin irritation you may not be allowed to be around certain chemicals or solutions. You may be sensitive to a lot of things, and that should be clearly noted on your RFC.
The RFC will present a vivid picture of how you are limited by the condition and what kind of work you are capable of doing. When you have the form completed by your treating physician, it will be given true consideration because the disability examiner will believe that your doctor should know more about your abilities than anyone else.
Without all your records and the supporting documentation, you cannot get a fair review of your claim. It is imperative to gather everything that you can and make sure it is in your file for disability review.
Multiple Medical Problems
Often individuals with polycythemia vera will suffer from other medical problems as well. While you may not meet the listing criteria with polycythemia vera, you may be able to be approved using a listing that applies to one of your other medical problems. As an example, people with the condition often suffer from breathing disorders, blood clots, or open sores in the intestine.
You may qualify using a listing from the Blue Book that applies to one of those conditions, or include the restrictions and limitation caused by those conditions on your RFC. The condition can be very debilitating, and this is especially true if other medical issues arise from this specific condition.
As an example, if you suffer from it and you have shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, and lung problems, all those should be considered when determining if you are disabled.
With an RFC and supporting medical evidence, you can get approved for disability benefits. Remember that providing supporting documentation is a necessity for a successful disability claim./p>
A disability lawyer can be a real asset to your claim, so be sure to consult with a disability lawyer about your disability claim because of polycythemia vera as soon as you can. The benefits can help you with medical expenses and also help you cover your basic living costs since you are not able to earn a living.
Should I Discuss My Case with a Disability Lawyer or Advocate?
As there is not one specific listing for Polycythemia Vera in the Blue Book, it might be difficult for you to prove that you meet a Blue Book listing without the help of an experienced Disability Lawyer or Advocate.
When you retain a disability attorney, you will not have to pay anything upfront or out of pocket. Instead, the lawyer will take the case on a contingency basis. That means that your attorney will not be paid until you recover compensation.
Your lawyer will review the details of your claim and make sure that all your medical records and other supporting documents are gathered and compiled in order so they can easily be reviewed and accessed by Disability Determination Services. You can retain an attorney at any time during the claims process, even before filing your initial claim.
Complete the Free Case Evaluation Form on this page to share the details of your disability with an attorney who handles disability claims in your area. Someone will review the details of your case and determine the best way to proceed with your claim so you can receive monthly disability benefits.
Most claims are denied during the initial review and an appeal must be filed. You will need a disability attorney to help you through the process. The claims process is complex, requiring detailed forms to be completed and specific deadlines to be met. Don’t risk delaying your claims approval by not enlisting the help of a Social Security Disability lawyer today.
Further, the grid rules are incredibly complicated, and certainly open to interpretation. A qualified Social Security Attorney can help you navigate the application process, thus giving you the best chance of approval for Disability benefits for your polycythemia vera.