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SICKLE CELL DISORDERS & DISABILITY

WHAT IS SICKLE CELL ANEMIA?

Sickle cell anemia (SCA) is a blood disorder that can result in disability. Cannon Disability Law can help you win disability benefits if you have sickle cell disorder. Contact us today for a free consultation.

If you have sickle cell anemia, then your  body creates red blood cells that are “sickled” in appearance. This means that your blood cell, instead of being round, is curved. It looks like a half-moon.

Because the cells are not round, they block blood flow and create pain. Also, sickle cells can cause a number of conditions. One condition they can cause, for example, is hemolytic anemia.

Hemolytic anemia occurs when there is a decrease in red blood cells. In short, your red blood cells are destroyed faster than the body can produce new red blood cells. With all types of anemia, including sickle cell disease, common symptoms include infections, pain, and fatigue.

sickle cell anemia

TYPES OF SICKLE CELL ANEMIA

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is an inherited group of disorders. Under the heading of sickle cell disease there are a number of conditions that qualify as sickle cell anemia.  These include, for example, HbSS, sickle beta zero thalassemia, HbSD, HbSE, and HbSO. Other forms of sickle cell disease, such as sickle beta plus thalassemia and HbSC, cause milder symptoms.

You may have heard the term “sickle cell trait.” Sickle cell trait is not a form of sickle cell anemia. Instead, sickle cell trait occurs when you inherit a sickle cell gene from one parent and a normal gene from the other parent. Normally, having sickle cell trait does not cause any symptoms or impairments, like those with sickle cell anemia.

Sickle cell anemia is one of the most common inherited blood anemias. The disease primarily affects Africans and African-Americans. In the United States, there are between 90,000 to 100,000 Americans who have sickle cell anemia. Because the disease is genetic, estimates are that one in 500 U.S. African-American children have sickle cell anemia at birth.

DOES SICKLE CELL ANEMIA QUALIFY FOR DISABILITY BENEFITS?

Sickle cell anemia is disabling due to its severe symptoms. For example, if you have sickle cell anemia, you may suffer many marked impairments. The impairments and symptoms include abdominal pain, chest pain, and bone pain. Likewise, you may find it difficult to catch your breath. You will experience fatigue, along with pain. Additionally, you may have fever, excessive thirst, and frequent urination.

Some of these symptoms appear in other physical conditions, like Diabetes Mellitus.  Nevertheless, once you experience this group of symptoms, you need to visit a doctor to determine if you have sickle cell anemia.

SICKLE CELL ANEMIA CRISIS

In addition to the symptoms of sickle cell anemia, you may also experience more severe illness. These are called crises. There are four different types of sickle cell crises:

  • Vaso-occlusive (thrombotic) crisis – This type of crisis occurs when blood flow is blocked to your organs. This can happen because of blockages in the blood vessels that deliver blood to your organs. If blood flow stops to your organs, it can cause organ damage. You will know this crisis is happening because it is very painful.
  • Splenic sequestration crisis – Splenic sequestration crisis occurs due to enlargement of the spleen. You will know this is happening because your abdomen becomes hard and you will be in pain. Therefore, you must seek immediate medical attention.
  • Aplastic crisis – You are already aware that sickle cell anemia causes a decrease in  red blood cells and this makes it so they cannot carry out their function in the body. An aplastic crisis occurs when, due to the lack of red blood cells, you experience fatigue and rapid heart beat.
  • Hemolytic crisis – You experience a hemolytic crisis when the decrease in red blood cells starts to cause kidney damage.

Other problems that occur with sickle cell anemia include gallstones, bone infections, skin ulcers, kidney and spleen damage (as above), and possible stroke. Find out more about stroke and disability benefits here. As you can see, sickle cell anemia creates disabling physical symptoms.

WHAT ARE THE COMPLICATIONS OF SICKLE CELL ANEMIA?

In 2017, the SSA issued Social Security Ruling 17-3p.  This SSA Ruling discusses the complication of sickle cell disease. It also explains how the SSA will examine the sickle cell anemia’s various conditions.

SSR 17-3p includes a long list of complications from sickle cell disease. For example, the complications include “pain, crises, anemia, osteomyelitis, leg ulcers, pulmonary infections or infarctions, acute chest syndrome, pulmonary hypertension, chronic heart failure, gallbladder disease, liver failure, kidney failure, nephritic syndrome, aplastic crisis, stroke, and mental impairments such as depression.” That is a long list. You may not have every symptom on the list, but you can still have disabling sickle cell disease.

SOCIAL SECURITY RULING 17-3P

The SSA goes on to explain the specific conditions that they consider when looking at disability for sickle cell disease. These include:

A. PAIN (VASO-OCCLUSIVE) CRISIS

Pain (vaso-occlusive) crisis is a common complication of SCD. Acute pain crises occur suddenly when sickled red blood cells stop blood flow and reduce oxygen delivery to your cells. The pain from this can be intense, stabbing, or throbbing. Additionally, pain can strike almost anywhere in the body and in more than one spot at a time. However, the pain often occurs in the lower back, legs, arms, abdomen, and chest.[6] Chronic pain in SCD is more than an acute pain crisis. It usually occurs when lack of oxygen to the bone due results in the death of bone tissue. This is called avascular necrosis. Death of the bone tissue usually occurs in the joints, such as the hips, shoulders and ankles.[7]

B. ANEMIA

Anemia is another obvious complication of SCD. Again, anemia occurs when the deformed red blood cells die prematurely. This reduces the amount of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in the blood. Symptoms from anemia include fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, and dizziness. Chronic deprivation of oxygen-rich blood can damage nerves and organs in the body. Damage can occur to the spleen, brain, eyes, joints, bones, lungs, liver, heart, kidneys, and other organs.

C. PULMONARY COMPLICATIONS

Pulmonary complications such as acute chest syndrome (ACS) and pulmonary hypertension are the leading cause of death for those with sickle cell disease.[8] Acute chest syndrome is a vaso-occlusion of the pulmonary vessels. Symptoms of ACS include chest pain, fever, abnormally rapid breathing, wheezing, or coughing. Pulmonary hypertension occurs when sickled red blood cells cause the pulmonary arteries to become narrow and blocked. The result of this damage to the pulmonary arteries is high blood pressure in the lungs. Symptoms of pulmonary hypertension include shortness of breath, fatigue, and chest pain.[9]

D. STROKES AND SILENT STROKES

Strokes and silent strokes affect people with SCD at a higher rate, because sickled red blood cells clump along the walls of larger arteries going to the brain. Unfortunately, strokes can result in full or partial paralysis on one side of the body. They can also result in problems with balance, difficulty speaking, and understanding. Silent strokes can also occur. A silent stroke means that there are no outward symptoms. You only know if you have had a silent stroke by obtaining brain imaging. However, silent strokes can impair intellectual ability, attention, visual-spatial skills, language, and long-term memory.[10]

E. BACTERIAL INFECTIONS

Bacterial infections are also one of the severe complications in people with SCD. Anemia from SCD can damage the spleen. This increases the risk of infection and damages other organs. Infection can lead to hospitalization. Sadly, infection is the primary cause of death in young children with sickle cell disorder.[11]

Closeup of pencil eraser and black sickle cell anemia text. Sickle cell anemia. Pencil with eraser.

LISTING 7.05 FOR SICKLE CELL ANEMIA AND OTHER HEMOLYTIC ANEMIAS

The SSA has a listing of conditions that “meet” the listing. For sickle cell anemia and other hemolytic anemias, the listing is 7.05. If you have all of the elements under the listing, then you “meet” the listing. Therefore, you are entitled to disability benefits.

LISTING 7.05

7.05 Hemolytic anemias, including sickle cell disease, thalassemia, and their variants (see 7.00C), with:

    1. Documented painful (vaso-occlusive) crises requiring parenteral (intravenous or intramuscular) narcotic medication, occurring at least six times within a 12-month period with at least 30 days between crises.    OR
    2.  Complications of hemolytic anemia requiring at least three hospitalizations within a 12-month period and occurring at least 30 days apart. Each hospitalization must last at least 48 hours, which can include hours in a hospital emergency department or comprehensive sickle cell disease center immediately before the hospitalization (see 7.00C2)   OR
    3. Hemoglobin measurements of 7.0 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or less, occurring at least three times within a 12-month period with at least 30 days between measurements.  OR
    4. Beta thalassemia major requiring life-long RBC transfusions at least once every 6 weeks to maintain life (see 7.00C4).

Please note, for example, that listing 7.05 requires “crises” and “hospital stays.” This means, in order to document, your sickle cell disease, you must have medical records. You cannot, for example, suffer significant pain and then testify about it. The SSA will not accept that you meet the listing without medical evidence. Therefore, go to the doctor. Document your sickle cell disease. Find out more about the importance of medical records in your disability case here.

CHILDREN’S DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR SICKLE CELL DISORDERS – LISTING 107.05

Children with sickle cell disorder have their own SSA listing. That listing is 107.05. The childhood listing is identical to the adult listing. In order for a child to meet listing 107.05, they must have all of the elements under the listing. If the child meets the listing, then they are eligible for SSI benefits. SSI benefits also have financial and asset restrictions. Learn more information about SSI benefits here.

If a child does not “meet” a listing, then they can still win SSI benefits, if the SSA finds “functionally equal” the listing. Social Security’s Ruling 17-3p, explains how the SSA will evaluate sickle cell disease and its limitations on a childhood functioning.

HOW DOES SSA DETERMINE IF A CHILD FUNCTIONALLY EQUALS LISTING 107.05?

Children with SCD that does not meet or medically equal a listing may nevertheless have impairments that functionally equal the listings under the rules for evaluating disability in children.[18] When the SSA determines whether a child’s impairments functionally equal the listings, they use the six domains of functioning.

The SSA considers how the child functional abilities compare to children in the same age group who do not have impairments. SSA recognizes that each child is different. They also know that the symptoms of sickle cell disease vary in each child. That is why they look at six different domains and compare the sick child to other children in their age group.

THE SIX DOMAINS OF CHILDHOOD FUNCTIONING

When the SSA examines whether a child with a disability equals a listing, they look to six domains of functioning. The six domains of functioning are:

1) ACQUIRING AND USING INFORMATION.

Some children with sickle cell disease may have limitations in acquiring and using information. For example, they may experience a stroke or a silent stroke. Strokes can cause brain injury. Therefore, if a child has a stroke due to SCD, that may effect the child’s ability to learn, concentrate, speak, and remember.

2) ATTENDING AND COMPLETING TASKS.

Frequent pain crises from sickle cell disorder can limit a child’s ability to attend and complete tasks at school and at home.[21] If a child does not feel well due to pain, it may be difficult for her to stay focused on activities long enough to complete them in an age-appropriate manner. A child who has pain from sickle cell disease may also have difficulty paying attention to details and might make mistakes on schoolwork.

3) INTERACTING AND RELATING WITH OTHERS.

Sickle cell disease can also cause limitations interacting and relating with others.[22] The unpredictable nature of pain in SCD may cause anxiety and difficulty maintaining relationships. Children suffering from complications of SCD may become withdrawn from others. They might also be uncooperative or unresponsive.

4) MOVING ABOUT AND MANIPULATING OBJECTS.

If sickle cell disease limits a child’s ability to move and manipulate objects, then the SSA evaluates those effects in the domain of “Moving about and manipulating objects.”[23] For example, pain and bone degeneration in the hip bones, knees, and ankles, may cause problems with walking, running, and climbing up and down stairs.

5) CARING FOR YOURSELF.

Caring for yourself involves a child’s basic understanding of her body’s normal functioning. This includes adequate emotional health for carrying out self-care tasks.[24] A child with sickle cell disease may avoid taking medication. Likewise, they may ignore complications of the disease out of frustration.

6) HEALTH AND PHYSICAL WELL-BEING.

Sickle cell disease and its treatment may affect a child’s health and physical well-being.[25] In this domain, the SSA evaluates the exacerbations of pain crises due to sickle cell anemia. They consider the frequency and duration of the pain exacerbations. Also, they examine to what extent the pain affects the child’s ability to function physically.

IF YOU DON’T MEET LISTING 7.05, YOU CAN STILL WIN DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR SICKLE CELL ANEMIA

If you don’t meet the sickle cell anemia listing 7.05, you can still be found disabled if you can’t work due to your severe symptoms. The SSA looks to your severe symptoms and determines your residual functional capacity (RFC). If you RFC is limited, then your RFC can prevent you from working.

The SSA determines your RFC by reading your medical records and asking you questions. For example, the SSA will look at how your symptoms are impacting your ability to do everyday tasks, such as sit, stand, and walk. They will also look at your fatigue and determine if you need to lay down during the workday.

Additionally, the SSA will decide whether or not your sickle cell disorder is impacting your mental abilities. For example, does your pain impair your ability to concentrate. Or, if you have had a stroke, are you struggling to communicate? The SSA develops a RFC assessment to determine if you can work. Find out more about the Residual Functional Capacity assessment here.

WHAT DOES CANNON DISABILITY TO FOR YOUR SICKLE CELL ANEMIA CASE?

You do not have to obtain disability benefits for sickle cell disorders on your own. Cannon Disability Law can help file your disability application. Also, we can help you navigate the stages of appeal during the disability process. That way, you can focus on your health and the changes in your life. Our attorneys and specialists can:

  • Help you file your application for SSD and SSI benefits
  • Request reconsideration if you receive an initial denial from Disability Determination Services
  • Help you confirm your attendance at a Consultative Examination
  • Request a Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
  • Prepare you to be a good witness at your disability hearing
  • Represent you at your hearing and cross-examine vocational and medical witnesses. Read more about vocational experts here. Learn more about medical expert testimony here.
  • Request review of an unfavorable decision with the Appeals Council
  • Request review of an Appeals Council denial in Federal Court

If you file your application for disability benefits online at Social Security’s website, then you only have 6 months to complete the application. Additionally, once you receive a denial from the SSA, you only have 60 days to file an appeal of whatever unfavorable decision made by the SSA. You must not fail to meet the deadlines set by the SSA.

WHAT DISABILITY BENEFITS CAN YOU GET IF YOU HAVE SICKLE CELL DISEASE?

To receive disability benefits, a person must meet SSA’s definition of disability. You are only eligible for Social Security disability benefits, if your sickle cell disease results in a severe medical condition that will last one year. Likewise, you also are disabled if your condition will result in death. Additionally, after you apply for benefits you may also be eligible for back due or past due disability benefits.

Because the SSA’s definition of disability is so strict, those who receive benefits are among the most severely impaired in our country. In fact, those receiving disability benefits are more than three times as likely to die in a given year as other people the same age.

At 55, if you start receiving disability benefits, then your chances of dying within five years from the onset of your disability is high. Depending on your gender, 1 in 6 men die after receiving disability benefits. Similarly, 1-in-8 women die within five years of the onset of their disabilities.

The truth is that 1-in-4 people in the United States becomes disabled before reaching retirement age. If this happens, then you are entitled to Social Security Disability benefit and/or Supplemental Security Income benefits.

In 2022, the average Social Security Disability monthly is $1,358. However, most recipients receive less money than that per month. Many law firms advertise that you can win more than $3000 a month in benefits. This is not correct.

Only 10% of SSD recipients receive more than $2,000 per month in benefits. If you have a family, you receive additional SSD benefits. For example, in 2022 the average monthly benefit for an SSD benefit recipient who has a spouse and children is $2,383 per month.

CANNON DISABILITY LAW WORKS ON A CONTINGENCY FEE BASIS

If you are seeking Social Security Disability benefits for sickle cell anemia or a sickle cell disease, you should hire an attorney. An attorney can help you apply for disability benefits.

Studies show that you are three times more likely to win benefits if you hire an attorney. Additionally, an attorney will know the medical symptoms to prove your disability for sickle cell disease.

In order to hire Cannon Disability, all you need to do is call us or contact us. We offer a free consultation over the phone. And, it doesn’t cost anything to call us.

Better yet, it also doesn’t cost you any upfront money to hire us. Why? Because you only pay us an attorney fee if we win your case. This is a contingency fee. It means if we win your SSD case, you pay the attorney fee out of your back benefits. If you do not win, there is no attorney fee to pay.

The attorney fee has a cap or a limit. The SSA sets the limit of the attorney fee at 25% of the back benefit or the maximum attorney fee cap, whatever is less.

WHAT ARE THE COSTS OF YOUR DISABILITY CLAIM?

The costs of a disability claim for sickle cell disease is the same for any other disabling condition. If there are costs in your case, then you pay those. But typically those costs are less than $100. Costs are typically obtaining medical records. We try to keep your costs to a minimum.

Once we win your case, the payment of your attorney fee comes from your back benefit. This is unusual, because to hire most lawyers, you have to pay the attorney fee upfront. We don’t work like that.

You don’t have a job. So, the only way to pay us, is for us to win your case. That is our goal. We will also try to win your past due disability benefits. Likewise, if you have a prior application to reopen, we will do that too. Call today. See what we can do for you.

Additionally, we represent clients in many states. For example, we have clients in Nevada, Utah, and Idaho. We also represent clients in Colorado and California. Find out more about Nevada disability benefits here.

Learn more about Utah disability benefits here. Additionally, we have information about California disability benefits here.

No matter where you live, we will answer your questions about sickle cell disease and your disability case. We want to be your disability legal team. If you have questions about benefits, give us a call today.

CANNON DISABILITY’S REPRESENTATIVES

If you want to learn more about the representatives at Cannon Disability Law, then read our About Us page. There you will find more information about our representatives. For example, Andria Summers can help you with your Medicare plan. Likewise, she has also won thousands of disability cases.

Dianna Cannon has many years of experience representing disability claimants. She has been an attorney for thirty years. Ms. Cannon also has licenses in a number of states. For example, she has a law license in California, Utah, Nevada, and Washington State.

Additionally, Brett Bunkall also has significant experience helping people obtain their SSI and SSD benefits. Mr. Bunkall has won thousands of disability hearings. He is an expert. Similarly, all of our representatives are experts. You can trust us to help you receive disability benefits for sickle cell anemia or sickle cell disease.

WE CAN HELP YOU WIN BENEFITS FOR SICKLE CELL DISEASE

There are many important issues that play a role in whether you receive benefits for sickle cell disease. You need a lawyer who understands those issues. Also, you need a representative who knows the law.

Cannon Disability wants to be your legal team. Hire us for our experience. Over the last 30 years, we have won over 20,000 disability claims. It isn’t an easy task to win. But, we have the tenacity to do it. We also have the experience to win your sickle cell anemia case.

Another important factor to consider when hiring an attorney is what it costs. Cannon Disability is affordable. We work on a contingency fee basis only. That means you do not pay an attorney fee until we win your case. The attorney fee comes out of your disability back benefit. If we do not win your case, then there is no attorney fee for you to pay.

Contact us today. Take advantage of our free consultation. If you call, then we can answer your questions. Remember, we are experts in SSI and SSD benefits. We will do our best to win your benefits. Call today.

When you call, be able to tell us what sickle cell disease symptoms you or your child experiences. Also, be ready to tell us about your doctors. We also want to know if you are receiving treatment for mental conditions, like depression. Find out if we can help you obtain disability benefits for your sickle cell disorder.

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