Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle-cell disease (“SCD”), sometimes call sickle-cell anemia, is a hereditary disorder that causes the red cells of the blood to have a sickle shape.  This can affect every system of the body.  Of course, the degree to which sickle cell disease causes you disabling limitations of function will depend on which body system is affected by the disease.  However, it is common for SCD sufferers to experience widespread pain and fatigue that can affect every aspect of life, from working to simple activities of daily living.  It is common for people with SCD to experience “sickle attacks” or periods during which the symptoms are particularly acute, followed by long periods of relative improvement in symptoms.  SCD typically, but not exclusively, affects people of African descent.

Many of the current treatments for SCD are highly effective, but they do not work for everyone.  If you experience chronic pain and fatigue related to SCD, it is possible that you could be eligible for disability benefits.  If you experience sickle attacks such that you would miss work more than 3 days per month on average despite compliance with treatment, you could be considered disabled on that basis.  It is important that you report all of your symptoms to your doctor, and it is even more important that you have been diagnosed and treated by a specialist in this condition such as a hematologist.  If you have chronic pain you should be treated by a pain specialist or neurologist.  Only if you are regularly reporting your symptoms to a specialist can she attest to the fact that you are experiencing severe limitations of function.  It is helpful to keep a log of your symptoms from day to day to share with your doctor.

The Social Security Administration’s listing of impairments covers SCD, and those regulations are copied below.  They describe how severe your SCD needs to be for you to be considered disabled on the basis of your SCD alone.

7.05 Sickle cell disease, or one of its variants. With:

  1. Documented painful (thrombotic) crises occurring at least three times during the 5months prior to adjudication; or
  2. Requiring extended hospitalization (beyond emergency care) at least three times during the 12 months prior to adjudication; or
  3. Chronic, severe anemia with persistence of hematocrit of 26 percent or less; or

D. Evaluate the resulting impairment under the criteria for the affected body system