In the United States, we often hear that cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death. While this statistic is (sadly) true, there are many heart conditions that Americans can and do live with for a long time. However, many of these heart conditions can cause disabilities that leave a person unable to work.
In this situation, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA includes a number of specific heart conditions in its listing of impairments, including heart transplants, ischemic heart disease, and chronic heart failure. If your symptoms meet or exceed one of these listings, then you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits.
At Bross & Frankel, we are fierce advocates for people with disabilities. We work with our clients to help them apply for, appeal, and ultimately get approved for Social Security benefits. If your heart condition affects your ability to work, reach out to our law offices to schedule a free claim review with a New Jersey Social Security disability lawyer.
How Does the SSA Decide If You Are Disabled?
To qualify for SSDI and/or SSI, you will first need to prove that you are unable to work due to a medical or mental health condition. The SSA uses a five-step sequential process to determine if a person is disabled:
- A person cannot earn more than $1,550 a month from working (known as substantial gainful employment) when claiming disability;
- A person must have an impairment or combination of impairments that significantly limit their ability to do basic work and is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death;
- Social Security will review whether a person’s condition meets all of the requirements for a condition on SSA’s list of disabling conditions (the “Blue Book”), or has other factors that equal a condition on that list;
- If not, then the medical impairment must prevent them from performing any of their past work; and
- They must not be able to do any other type of work, considering their impairment, age, education, past work experience, and any transferable skills (this last step requires Social Security to identify other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy).
If you can prove that you are disabled under these criteria, then you may be eligible for SSDI and/or SSI.
Both disability programs have additional requirements. Specifically, to be approved for SSDI, you must have paid into the system by working and paying Social Security taxes. The SSA will look at your employment history to determine if you have enough “work credits” to qualify. Usually, you need 40 credits (earning up to 4 per year) to be eligible for SSDI, but younger people may need fewer credits.
SSI is a needs-based program. You don’t have to show a work history to qualify for SSI, but you do have to meet strict asset and income limits that have fairly complicated rules. Depending on your situation, you may qualify for both SSDI and SSI. If you have questions about whether you may be eligible for SSDI and/or SSI, reach out to our law firm to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team.
Qualifying for Social Security Disability with a Heart Condition
If you have a heart condition, then you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits if you meet the other requirements. The SSA has a specific category in the Blue Book for cardiovascular system impairments. According to the SSA, a cardiovascular impairment is any disorder that affects the proper functioning of the heart or the circulatory system.
The cardiovascular system section lists eight different heart problems, including:
- Chronic heart failure, when the heart isn’t able to supply enough blood to the body because it has become weakened in some way. It often leads to a related condition, congestive heart failure.
- Ischemic heart disease, which occurs when the heart muscle cannot get a sufficient blood supply.
- Recurrent arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rates.
- Symptomatic congenital heart disease, which is birth defects in the heart that cause malfunctions
- Heart transplant
- Aneurysm of aorta or major branches, which is swelling in the major arteries of the heart due to heart disease
- Chronic venous insufficiency, or circulation problem due to damaged veins
- Peripheral arterial disease, which is impaired function of outlying arteries.
Each of these listings has specific criteria and requires documentation of the condition. Generally, the SSA requires detailed reports of medical history, physical examinations, laboratory studies, prescribed treatment, and the response to the treatment to make a determination. This clinical record should include at least 3 months of observations so that the SSA can assess the severity and expected duration of the impairment.
There are a number of tests that are used to diagnose heart conditions and can serve as evidence in an application for disability benefits. This includes:
- An electrocardiograph or electrocardiogram (ECG): this test involves a machine recording the electrical impulses of the heart on a strip of paper. It may indicate a heart abnormality, such as an arrhythmia, a ventricular enlargement, or that your heart isn’t getting enough oxygen (ischemia)
- Exercise tests: in this test, a patient performs physical activity and doctors evaluate how their cardiovascular system responds. These tests are used to evaluate the severity of coronary artery disease or peripheral vascular disease or to evaluate progress after an acute event like a myocardial infarction (heart attack)
- Drug-induced stress tests: an exam that provides information about myocardial ischemia or prior myocardial infarction. They are similar to exercise tests, but use medications instead of physical activity.
- Cardiac catheterization
- Coronary arteriography
- Exercise Doppler tests
The results of these tests can provide objective evidence of the severity of your heart condition.
To qualify for Social Security disability with a heart condition, you will need to submit medical records to demonstrate that your symptoms meet or exceed the listings for one or more of the Blue Book conditions. For example, if you have chronic heart failure, you will need to submit:
- Medically documented presence of systolic or diastolic failure; and
- That this failure results in:
- Persistent symptoms of heart failure that very seriously limit the ability to perform activities of daily living;
- Three or more separate episodes of acute congestive heart failure within a 12-month period; or
- An inability to perform an exercise tolerance test to a certain level.
Each separate listing has criteria that must be met to be approved for disability benefits.
Importantly, even if you don’t meet or exceed one of these cardiovascular impairment listings, you may still qualify for disability benefits. As described above, the 5 step sequential evaluation process will look at whether you can perform your past work or any other work if you do not meet a Blue Book listing. This is typically determined based on a residual functional capacity (RFC) examination.
An RFC will analyze the type of work that you can do based on your physical limitations. If moving, carrying, lifting, or even sitting for long periods of time causes symptoms like breathing difficulty, exhaustion, or angina (heart pain), then the report may conclude that you cannot perform any type of work – even sedentary work.
A few specific impairments that may prevent the performance of work also include difficulty focusing due to poor sleep. Many people with heart failure have difficulty laying down at night and struggle to get a full-night of restful sleep. This can lead to focus issues and an inability to remain on task for a full eight hours of work. Likewise, even if you may be able to sit for a reasonable length of time, if you struggle going from sitting to standing, or need to elevate your legs during the day at waist level, you probably won’t be able to perform work at a desk. Other impairments may also be related. For example, depression and anxiety are highly associated with cardiovascular disease. Many patients don’t connect these issues, but if you suffer from depression that makes it difficult to communicate with others or persist through a full workday, that may also impact your ability to work and warrant a finding of disability, as long as your condition is well-documented by your providers.
This is especially true with individuals suffering from cardiac conditions, who may struggle with difficulty focusing In this situation, you may still be eligible for SSDI and/or SSI because your condition prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity.
How Bross & Frankel Can Help
Having a heart condition can make it difficult to perform basic activities – and it can also make it incredibly hard to work. If you have been diagnosed with a cardiovascular impairment, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Our law firm can help you put together the appropriate evidence and file a disability claim for your heart condition. If your application has been denied, we can guide you through the appeals process.
Based in Cherry Hill, Bross & Frankel represents people with disabilities throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania as they seek disability benefits. We have decades of experience with Social Security disability, from initial applications to filing appeals, to filing for disability while working. To learn more or to schedule a claim review with a New Jersey Social Security disability attorney, give us a call at 866-311-3786 or fill out our online contact form.
Can I Still Get Disability for My Heart Condition If It Was Caused By My Lifestyle?
There are many factors that contribute to conditions like coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure, such as drinking, smoking, or eating high-fat foods. For Social Security disability purposes, it doesn’t matter why you have a heart condition. If you are disabled because of your heart condition, then you may still qualify for disability benefits.
The key in these claims is to prove that you meet the SSA’s definition of disabled based on your heart condition. Our law office can help you gather the right evidence to support your application. Reach out to Bross & Frankel to talk to a New Jersey disability attorney about your application.
If I’m Not Getting Medical Treatment for My Heart Condition, Can I Get Social Security Disability?
While it is possible to be approved for SSDI and/or SSI without being in treatment for a heart condition, it is rare. The SSA requests longitudinal medical records of at least 3 months that include documentation of your medical condition and symptoms. If you aren’t currently getting treatment, then it will be difficult to prove that your heart condition is so severe that it prevents you from working.
There are many reasons why a person may not be seeing a doctor. If you want to apply for Social Security disability, it will be important to establish a relationship with a cardiologist. Contact Bross & Frankel to schedule a free claim review with a New Jersey Social Security disability lawyer.
I Have a Heart Stent. Can I Get Social Security Disability Benefits?
Simply having a heart stent is not enough to qualify for SSDI or SSI. Instead, you will need to show that you have chronic heart failure or another medical impairment that makes you unable to work. Alternatively, the SSA may determine that a combination of the condition that your heart stent is treating plus another condition qualifies you as disabled.
Getting approved for Social Security disability can be challenging. If you are thinking about applying for disability, our law firm is here to help. Call Bross & Frankel today to speak to one of our New Jersey disability attorneys about your claim.