How long will I be considered disabled by Social Security for leukemia?

Social Security has specific time frames for which leukemia patients will be considered disabled under the leukemia listing.

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For patients who are approved for Social Security disability benefits for leukemia, there are time limitations for which they will be considered to be disabled based on the initial ruling of disability and the type of leukemia they have. (These time limitations affect how long a leukemia patient can meet the leukemia listing in Social Security's "blue book.") There are separate time frames for those who have had stem cell transplants. Below are the time frames for the different types of leukemia, including for individuals who have had stem cell transplants.

Acute Leukemia

If you have acute leukemia, you'll be eligible for disability benefits for whichever period is longer:

  • At least two years after the date of the leukemia diagnosis or the latest relapse, or
  • At least once year from the date of a stem cell transplant.

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

If you have CML, you'll be eligible for disability benefits for whichever period is longer:

Accelerated or Blast Phase

  • At least two years after the date of the CML diagnosis or the latest relapse, or
  • At least one year from the date of a stem cell transplant.

Chronic Phase

  • At least one year from the date of a stem cell transplant.

Stem Cell Transplant Timing

For those who have received stem cell transplants from someone other than themselves or an identical twin (allogeneic transplant), the 12 months will be measured from the date of the transplantation. For those who have received stem cell transplants of their own stem cells or those of an identical twin, the 12 months will be measured from the date of the first treatment under the treatment plan for the transplant. This is generally initial therapy that is used to prepare you for the transplantation.

Assessment After the Time Frame

After the above time frames are met, you will be not be able to meet (or equal) the leukemia listing in the Social Security blue book. Instead, Social Security will look at any effects that you continue to have from the leukemia or the treatments for the leukemia to determine if they cause enough functional limitations for you to be considered disabled -- or if they allow you to meet another disability listing. However, if your leukemia were to return, you may qualify again under the leukemia listing again.

For those who had stem cell transplants, residual impairments and complications that will be considered include graft versus host disease (GVHD), immunosuppressant therapy and the frequency of infections, and other organ systems that have been significantly impacted by the transplant.

Continuing Disability Review (CDR)

Because Social Security does not deem disabilities to be permanent, everyone who receives disability benefits is subject to periodic continuing disability reviews (CDRs). The frequency of CDRs depends on your disability and the likelihood of improvement. For cases where medical improvement is not expected, CDRs are done generally every seven years. For those cases where medical improvement is possible, CDRs are generally done every three years. For those where medical improvement is expected, CDRs can be done sooner than every three years; they are generally done between six and 18 months after being found disabled. For those with leukemia, it is likely CDRs will be performed every three years or less, as there is a possibility that the treatments may work and your disability would no longer exist. For more information, see our section on continuing disability reviews.

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