Multiple Myeloma and Qualifying for SS Disability Benefits
Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Multiple Myeloma?
Author: Attorney Greg Reed
It’s estimated that 34,920 new cases of multiple myeloma were diagnosed in 2021. Less common than other blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, multiple myeloma is a cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell. Healthy plasma cells are found in bone marrow and play an important role in the immune system by producing antibodies to target germs and fight infections.
If you are suffering from the effects of Multiple Myeloma you may qualify for disability benefits.
In multiple myeloma, cancerous plasma cells grow out of control, accumulating in the bone marrow and crowding out healthy blood cells.
This overgrowth of cancerous plasma cells can lead to several complications, among them:
- Anemia (shortage of red blood cells;)
- Bone damage, thinning bones, fractures;
- Reduced kidney function and kidney failure;
- Frequent infections;
- Thrombocytopenia (a condition where the level of platelets in blood is low, leading to bleeding and bruising);
- Leukopenia (a shortage of normal white blood cells, resulting in problems fighting infections).
Symptoms of multiple myeloma vary and are not usually present in its early stages, but when they do occur they commonly include:
- Frequent infections;
- Bone pain, especially in the spine and chest;
- Weakness and numbness in legs;
- Loss of appetite;
- Weight loss;
- Mental fatigue and confusion;
- Excessive thirst;
- Extramedullary plasmacytomas (purplish lumps that form under the skin) (in rare cases).
Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from Multiple Myeloma. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
The cause of multiple myeloma is unknown, but it almost always begins as a condition known as monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance or MGUS.
MGUS is a relatively benign condition and like multiple myeloma, marked by the presence of M proteins in the blood, but in MGUS, the levels of M proteins are lower and no damage occurs to the body. About three percent of people over the age of 50 have MGUS while only one percent of people with MGUS develop multiple myeloma.
- Increasing age. Most people are diagnosed in their mid-60s.
- Male gender. More men develop multiple myeloma than women.
- Race. African-Americans are more likely to develop multiple myeloma.
- Family history. People with a family member with multiple myeloma are at greater risk.
A doctor may discover multiple myeloma through a routine exam or a blood test taken for another condition.
Other tests will be done if multiple myeloma is suspected including urine tests, examination of bone marrow, and imaging tests used to detect bone problems such as x-rays, MRIs, CTs or positron emission topography (PET). From the results of these tests a doctor will be able to determine if the condition is stage 1, stage 2 or stage 3. Stage 1 is the least-aggressive stage of the disease, while stage 3 indicates an aggressive disease that could affect bone, kidneys and other organs.
A doctor will monitor the patient’s condition for signs that the disease is progressing and if the patient is not experiencing symptoms, treatment may not be necessary.
As symptoms develop, however, there are some treatments which can slow the progress of multiple myeloma and help the patient manage their condition:
- Targeted drug treatment that focuses on blocking a substance that causes myeloma cells to die;
- Biological therapy drugs that use the body’s immune system to fight myeloma cells;
- Corticosteroids, such as prednisone and dexamethasone;
- Bone marrow transplant (or stem cell transplant);
- Radiation therapy.
Qualifying for Disability for Multiple Myeloma
The Social Security Administration recognizes multiple myeloma as an impairment under its listings for cancer, Section 13.07. To qualify automatically under this listing, you must meet the following requirements:
- Your multiple myeloma continues to progress even after a full course of treatment; or
- You have had a stem cell or bone marrow transplant within the past 12 months.
Not every applicant with multiple myeloma will meet Social Security’s Blue Book qualifications, so it’s essential to provide Social Security with a complete history of your medical condition.
You should submit to Social Security the following medical evidence:
- Results of a full physical examination;
- A diagnosis of multiple myeloma;
- Complete blood count (CBC);
- Serum or urine protein electrophoresis (SPEP)to detect the level of various proteins in the blood;
- Urine protein electrophoresis (UPEP) to detect level of protein in urine (increased protein in the urine may indicate multiple myeloma);
- Antibody (Immunoglobulin) blood levels;
- Free Light Chain Assay – a test that looks for signs of antibodies called immunoglobulins in your blood;
- Progress reports from your oncologist.
You should also submit a basic metabolic panel (BMP) which can indicate the severity of your condition.
Some of the tests included in a BMP are of particular importance in multiple myeloma.
- Calcium blood levels: A high calcium level in the blood is common in multiple myeloma.
- BUN and creatinine: High levels of BUN and creatinine often indicate kidney damage.
- Results from a bone-marrow aspirate or biopsy.
- Imaging results such as a Bone Scan, X-ray, CT scan or MRI, or PET that show bone decay, thinning bones, or fractures.
The Social Security Administration will also want to see detailed documentation of treatments and medications you are taking and your responses to those treatments.
Be sure to include the following:
- Medications you take, including doses, how often you take them, and side effects you experience;
- Chemotherapy and radiation treatments, as well as side effects;
- Related medical complications such as weakness, heart problems, or neurological issues.
If you don’t meet the exact criteria of Social Security’s listing, for example, if an imaging test or blood test shows that the multiple myeloma is not progressing, you may still be eligible for disability benefits if you can demonstrate that you are unable to perform any type of full-time job.
Fatigue, pain, muscle weakness and broken bones can impact your ability to complete physical and mental tasks and may even prevent you from doing any type of sedentary work. Social Security will conduct a Residual Functional Capacity assessment to evaluate how your limitations affect your ability to work, taking into account whether or not you are able to drive, your age, and level of education.
Also, applicants often have more than one illness or injury that prevents them from working full time.
By itself one disorder may not meet the requirements of an impairment as stated in Social Security’s Blue Book; however, if you have another impairment; for example, high blood pressure or arthritis, Social Security must consider how those health issues, combined together, limit your ability to hold a job and perform necessary daily tasks.
If you have been diagnosed with multiple myeloma and it has impacted your ability to work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, but filing for SSDI is a complicated matter.
Most applicants are denied initially, but if you have an experienced disability attorney to review your case and help you navigate the often confusing and lengthy process, you can avoid common pitfalls that lead to the delay or rejection of your claim.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.
The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.
- The Duration of Work test. Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
- The Current Work Test. Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.
The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.
- Are you working? Your disability must be “total”.
- Is your medical condition severe? Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
- Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments? The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
- Can you do the work you did before? SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
- Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.
More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you are not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
Author: Attorney Greg Reed has been practicing law for 29 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Reed obtained board certification from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Greg is admitted to practice in the United States District Court - all Texas Districts and the United States Court of Appeals-Fifth Circuit. Mr. Reed is a member of the Travis County Bar Association, Texas Trial Lawyers Association, past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association, and an Associate member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. Mr. Reed and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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