If you live with anemia and it leaves you unable to hold a job, you may be eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA provided payments to about 21,500 people in 2021 for blood-related disorders like anemia.
To help you understand whether or not you may qualify, we’ll go over how the SSA defines anemia, criteria you must meet, and potential next steps.
Is anemia a disability?
Yes, the SSA considers anemia as a disability, but only if you’re unable to work because of it. Anemia may also be a symptom for another condition that qualifies for benefits — such as chronic kidney disease — or as a complication from the treatment of other blood disorders — like a bone marrow transplant.
The general medical definition of anemia is when the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. However, there are multiple types of anemia, ranging in symptoms and severity.
The SSA categorizes anemia as a non-cancerous hematological (blood) disorder. Although not every type of anemia is specifically listed, it includes any anemia that disrupts the normal development and function of red blood cells.
Types of anemia that qualify for disability
While the SSA does not list all the types, it does call out the following as being potentially qualifying for benefits:
Sickle cell anemia (and other forms of sickle cell disease)
Criteria for getting disability with anemia
The SSA lays out strict criteria if you want to qualify for disability benefits because of your anemia. You’ll need to show clear medical evidence that you meet the SSA criteria.
Many people who have anemia won’t be eligible for disability benefits unless they have another condition alongside their anemia. A diagnosis from your doctor also isn’t enough on its own.
To qualify for disability with anemia, the SSA may look for evidence of one or more of the following:
You have experienced and can provide documentation of vaso-occlusive crises that required medication. They must have occurred at least six times within a 12-month period, with 30 days or more between crises.
You’ve had at least three hospitalizations within a 12-month period — each at least 30 days apart — from complications of your sickle cell disease. Each hospitalization must have lasted at least 48 hours, which can include hours spent in an emergency room or in a comprehensive sickle cell disease center immediately before the hospitalization.
You’ve had hemoglobin measurements of 7.0 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or less, occurring at least three times within a 12-month period, with a minimum of 30 days between measurements.
You receive life-long transfusions of red blood cells at a frequency of least once every six weeks.
Examples of medical documentation that may be helpful for your application include physician notes, treatment plans, proof that you’ve followed prescribed treatment plans, and lab work results.
My anemia meets the criteria. Now what?
If you believe your anemia is severe enough that it makes you eligible for Social Security disability, your next step is to apply for benefits. Because the application process takes months or years, it’s best to apply as soon as you can. If you’re still not sure whether you qualify, consider the follow:
You should apply benefits now if:
You are no longer working or are hospitalized due to your anemia and its complications
Consider waiting to apply if:
You haven’t stopped working, though you think you’ll need to in the future OR
You only just started treatments for anemia and it’s unclear whether it’s a long-term condition.
Probably don't apply if:
Your anemia is manageable enough that you can still hold a job OR
You have no immediate plans to stop working and you earn more than about $1,400 per month
The quickest way to see if you qualify for disability benefits is to take our 2-minute eligibility quiz. If you do meet the qualifications, we can also connect you with an experienced lawyer who will know the best way to qualify for benefits with anemia. (Our services are always free and you would only have to pay the lawyer if they help you win benefits.)
How much are disability benefits for anemia?
The SSA does not specifically state disability payments for anemia, but people diagnosed with similar diseases of the blood receive an average disability check of $1,286.42 per month.
Exactly how much you get will depend on the type of benefits you receive. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is worth up to a maximum of $3,822 per month and is typically an option if you’ve worked at least five of the past 10 years. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is available if you have little to no income and savings. SSI is worth up to a maximum of $943 per month in 2024.
It’s difficult to qualify for disability benefits but if you think you might qualify, you can still apply. To help your odds, consider talking with a disability lawyer. They’ll be able to explain your chances of approval based on your personal circumstances.
It’s also important to remember that only 20% of disability applicants are approved for their initial application. Even applicants with severe conditions usually need to go through an appeals process. (After an appeal, about 50% of people are approved.)
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