Multiple Myeloma is a blood cancer that used to be a terminal diagnosis. However in the past 10 years or so, truly amazing advancements have been made in the treatment of this disease. There are new drugs, like Revlimid and Valcade, and autologous stem cell transplants are a treatment option that offers lengthy remissions. I am happy to say that for many patients, multiple myeloma has become more of a chronic condition than a terminal cancer.
I never used to have clients with multiple myeloma, because disability applications based upon the disease were routinely granted. However, the advances in treatment have made it more difficult to obtain Social Security disability.
Mulitiple myeloma is evaluated under Social Security listing 13.07. However, the listing is not that much help for those who respond to treatment. Most cases will be evaluated on a medical-vocational basis. That means claims will be decided by evaluating your residual functional capacity and determining your ability to work (see steps 4 & 5 of the sequential evaluation process).
When evaluating a disability claimant’s ability to work, my experience is that Social Security does not give sufficient consideration to the side effects of the chemotherapy that these patients receive. The chemo has severe side effects that can last for months or years after the chemo stops. Fatigue is typically the greatest side effect, and cognitive issues can be secondary to that fatigue. Peripheral neuropathy, particularly in the feet, is also a common side effect of the chemo. Lastly, an impaired immune system is a byproduct of the chemo, and that can preclude some types of employment.
A person under medical management for multiple myeloma is going to able to function, and some days are better than others. But it is unlikely that this person will be able to sustain employment on a “regular and continuous basis,” as required by Social Security ruling 96-8p, due to the fatigue alone.
To prevail with your claim for Social Security disability benefits, you must make the SSA understand the functional limitations you experience. A lawyer who understands the limitations that come with chemotherapy can be a real help for those with multiple myeloma.