May 20, 2014

Heart Disease According to the Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes many cardiovascular impairments as disabling conditions.  Many people use the term heart disease interchangeably with cardiovascular impairments.  The SSA defines a cardiovascular impairment as  “any disorder that affects the proper functioning of the heart or the circulatory system (that is, arteries, veins, capillaries, and the lymphatic drainage).  The disorder can be congenital or acquired.”  The SSA lists cardiovascular impairments under Section 4.00 in the Listing of Impairments.  The Listings define certain diagnoses, clinical findings, and symptoms that the SSA considers disabling.  If you can provide appropriate medical evidence showing that your impairment meets the definitions set out in the Listings, you might be found disabled without having to demonstrate how your impairment keeps you from being able to work.

Below are a few cardiovascular impairments that the Social Security Administration addresses in its Listing of Impairments.

Chronic Heart Failure

Chronic heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body.  Some signs and symptoms of heat failure may include: increased rate of breathing, increased difficulty for normal breathing, pulmonary edema, cardiac asthma (wheezing), and/or apex beat or gallop rhythm.  Heart failure stems from the myocardium muscle losing efficiency, which is usually caused by damage or or overloading of the muscle.  The leading cause of chronic heart failure is coronary artery disease.  The SSA recognizes chronic heart failure in Section 4.02 of the Listing of Impairments.  To meet this listing you must be able to show certain levels of systolic or diastolic failure, severe symptoms as a result of your heart failure, or multiple episodes of acute congestive heart failure.

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Ischemic Heart Disease

 Ischemic heart disease is more commonly known as coronary artery disease.  This condition happens when blockages in the arteries reduce blood flow.  Ischemia is defined as “reduced blood supply.”  The leading cause of ischemic heart disease is atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which stems from plaque buildup along the artery walls.  Heart attacks caused by ischemic heart disease are usually caused by arteries rupturing from the plaque buildup.  The SSA recognizes ischemic heart disease in Section 4.04 of the Listing of Impairments.  To meet this listing, you must have had a stress test with certain severe results, ischemic episodes requiring revascularization, or certain severe results on an angiogram.

Aneurysm

Aneurysms usually develop very slowly, and are only noticed when other health problems arise, such as blood clots or blockages.  Aneurysms can be diagnosed using ultrasound, x-ray, or an electrocardiogram.  An aneurysm is defined as a bulge in an artery; they can also be found in the left ventricle of the heart.  The SSA recognizes aneurysms in Section 4.10 of the Listing of Impairments.  The listing covers aneurysms due to any cause, but they must be backed up with acceptable medical imaging.

There are a few more heart conditions that can be found in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments here.  Nearly all of the cardiovascular listings require that you comply with a treatment regimen.  In other words, if the severity of your symptoms is a result of your failure to get treatment or to follow your doctor’s instructions, your impairment will not meet the Listings.

Even if your heart condition does not meet the exact criteria of the Listings, you may still be eligible for Social Security disability benefits if you can show that your symptoms keep you from working a full work day and work week.   You can contact the SSA if you have questions regarding your eligibility for Social Security disability benefits.  Many claimants also find it helpful to hire representation during their Social Security disability claim.  The process can be a long and tedious one, with many confusing steps for a claimant who is not familiar with the Social Security Administration.  Most attorneys or representatives offer a free consultation or case evaluation for any questions you may have.

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