Is Sickle Cell Trait a Disability?

Sickle cell trait is a term used to describe a person who has inherited one sickle cell gene and one “normal” gene. This raises an important question: Can I get Social Security disability benefits for sickle cell trait? The answer is it depends—to qualify for benefits, you must prove that your medical impairment prevents you from working. Here, our Arizona Social Security disability attorneys explain the key things to know about sickle cell trait and SSDI/SSI claims.  

What is Sickle Cell Trait?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines sickle cell trait (SCT) as a genetic condition that exists within a person who has inherited a sickle cell gene from one parent and a “normal” gene from the other parent. A person who has sickle cell trait—meaning just one sickle cell gene—will avoid the disease. However, they can pass on the genetic condition to their children. 

A person with two sickle cell genes will generally develop sickle cell disease (SCD). Also sometimes referred to as sickle cell anemia, sickle cell disease is a term used to describe a collection of medical conditions that affect red blood cells. Common symptoms of sickle cell disease are pain, discomfort, fatigue, and increased susceptibility to infections.  

Note: While sickle cell trait is not the same thing as sickle cell disease, a person who has SCT may sometimes experience adverse symptoms from their conditions, potentially including pain. 

The SSA Evaluation and Medical Eligibility: Sickle Cell Trait and Sickle Cell Anemia

As sickle cell disease is the single most frequently inherited blood disorder, it is often an issue in Social Security disability cases. The SSA has released official policy guidance on SCT and SDC (SSR 17-3p: Evaluating Cases Involving Sickle Cell Disease). The key thing to know is that sickle cell disease/sickle cell anemia can qualify for Social Security disability benefits—but only when the condition is so severe that it interferes with a person’s ability to keep a job. The SSA evaluates sickle cell disease as three different hematological disorder listings:

  • Listing 7.05: Hemolytic anemias. 
  • Listing 7.17: Hematological disorders treated by bone marrow or stem cell transplantation. 
  • Listing 7.18: Repeated complications of hematological disorders.

To qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits on medical grounds, an applicant who has sickle cell disease must provide comprehensive medical evidence demonstrating the nature and severity of their condition. It is considerably more difficult to qualify for SSD benefits based solely on sickle cell trait. However, a claim can be approved if an applicant can provide compelling medical evidence that demonstrates their disability status under one of the aforementioned hematological disorder listings.  

Contact Our Arizona Social Security Disability Lawyers Today

At Pekas Smith: Arizona Disability Attorneys, we are focused on helping people maximize their financial benefits. If you have any questions about sickle cell trait and disability claims, we are available to help. Contact us today for a no-fee, no-obligation review of your SSDI or SSI claim. With an office in Phoenix, we provide legal representation to clients throughout Arizona, including in Tucson, Mesa, Flagstaff, Surprise, Chandler, and Scottsdale. 

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