Anemia is a condition that occurs when your blood does not have enough red blood cells, the main transporters of oxygen to the organs of the body. If your body is not getting enough oxygen, you may tire out easily, appear pale, feel tired,have a racing heart, be short of breath, lose your hair, or have a general feeling of not being well. Over time, anemia can also cause a worsening of existing heart problems.
Is Anemia Considered Disabling?
Anemia affects different people in different ways. For those who have had a gradual reduction in red blood cells, their body may be able to handle the loss even if their red blood cell count is very low. Alternately, those who lose red blood cells quickly may show significant impairments. And those with illnesses that are already present, especially heart problems, may find that anemia makes their condition worse.
In order to qualify to receive Social Security Disability benefits based on anemia, individuals must prove one of two things. They can show that they meet the requirements of Social Security's official disability listing for anemia or that they are unable to return to any type of work because their anemia is so limiting.
Anemia Disability Listing
The criteria of the anemia disability listing require that the red blood cells in your blood are persistently 30% or less and you need at least one blood transfusion every two months, on average. Red blood cell counts alone are not enough to prove disability;. Evidence of all blood transfusions is necessary if you are trying to meet the listing by showing you require frequent blood transfusions.
Alternatively, you can meet the requirements of a listing for an impairment caused by anemia, such as a cardiovascular listing due to increases in heart problems or a respiratory listing due to difficulties with breathing. Also, anemia is often a result of an underlying condition that may meet a listing. For example, anemia can be caused by advanced kidney disease, which has its own listing.
Ability to Return to Work
Even if you don't meet the requirements of a disability listing, you may still be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if you can prove that you are unable to return to work because of reduced physical capacity. Anemia can greatly affect one's physical capacity. Fatigue, lack of endurance, and shortness of breath are some of the main symptoms that can cause an individual to not be able to perform a job. And physical demands of working such as walking and lifting may not be possible for individuals with anemia. Additionally, underlying health conditions that have lead to the anemia, such as heart problems, may further prevent an individual from meeting the physical demands of any job.
To determine whether you can work, Social Security writes up your limitations on a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form. The agency then applies a predetermined formula to your RFC, along with your age, education, and work experience, to evaluate whether you should be deemed disabled. For more information, see our article on how Social Security evaluates your ability to work.