Whether you recently received a leukemia diagnosis or if your leukemia has returned after a period of remission, you may qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.

Leukemia and SSD benefits

Leukemia is a type of cancer that attacks the body’s blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. It usually involves the production of abnormal white blood cells – your body produces too many of them, and the abnormalities prevent them from fighting infection in the body.


The Social Security Administration (SSA) classifies leukemia as a disabling medical condition eligible for SSD benefits. It is included on the SSA’s list of compassionate allowances – medical conditions so obviously disabling that SSD applications are fast tracked to get the applicant needed benefits quickly.

There are two forms of leukemia that qualify for SSD benefits: acute leukemia and chronic myelogenous leukemia (either in the accelerated/blast phase or chronic). For both acute and the accelerated/blast phase, the applicant is considered under a disability the later of 24 months (minimum) from the date of diagnosis or relapse, or 12 months from the date of bone marrow or stem cell transplant. For the chronic phase, the applicant is considered under a disability for 12 months from the date of bone marrow or stem cell transplant, or if the cancer has been diagnosed as progressive following initial anticancer therapy.

The inclusion of the 12 and 24-month period in the listings is important. To qualify for SSD benefits, you must be able to prove that your disability has lasted, or is expected to last, 12 months, or that it will result in your death. In cases of leukemia, the applicant does not need to prove that he will be disabled for the required period – the SSA’s criteria automatically consider a leukemia patient disabled for the required 12-month period, although you will still need to prove that the diagnosis prevents you from participating in substantial gainful activity.

Medical documentation to support leukemia diagnosis

Despite leukemia being included as a compassionate allowance, you still must provide the SSA with documentation of the diagnosis. For acute leukemia, including the accelerated or blast phase of chronic myelogenous leukemia, a definitive bone marrow examination will support the diagnosis. Additional diagnostic information is based on chromosome analysis, cytochemical and surface marker studies on the abnormal cells, or other diagnostic methods that are consistent with the prevailing state of medical knowledge and clinical practice at the time of diagnosis.

Diagnosis of chronic myelogenous leukemia requires a granulocytosis and chromosomal analysis that shows the presence of the Philly chromosome, or other diagnostic methods consistent with prevailing practice. Diagnosis of recurrent leukemia must be supported by a peripheral blood, bone marrow, or cerebrospinal fluid examination, and should include both the initial and follow-up pathology reports.

Reports showing an elevated white blood cell count, without more, is insufficient to support a diagnosis.

Resources for cancer patients

If you have been diagnosed with leukemia, these online resources provide information on treatment options, tips on living with cancer and can connect you with support groups.

The American Cancer Society is a comprehensive site that includes information on each type of cancer. It also has a 24/7, toll-free hotline that connects callers with cancer specialists who can provide information and support; the site also has links to local chapters+++++++++++++++++++++++ for in-person support.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has information on all forms of leukemia, including printable books and requests for printed material. There are links to research, access to online chat groups and community bulletin boards where you can seek advice from others who share your experience, as well as information on financial assistance to help pay for treatment.

Are you or someone you know considering submitting an application for SSD benefits? At the Law Office of Neil H. Good, we have over 25 years of experience in Social Security Disability cases.  Get a free case evaluation by completing our online form or call us toll-free #(847) 577-4476.