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Atrial Fibrillation and Social Security Disability

Atrial fibrillation is a form of arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm. With atrial fibrillation, the abnormal rhythm occurs in the heart’s upper chambers, which are known as the atria. In most individuals, this condition causes no symptoms, but some can experience mild to severe, even life-threatening complications with the condition, including heart palpitations, fainting spells, chest pain, heart failure or stroke.

Qualifying for SSD with Atrial Fibrillation

Medication is the most common treatment for atrial fibrillation. If drug therapy doesn’t control symptoms, a pacemaker can be surgically implanted to regulate heart rhythms. If available treatments are able to control your symptoms – your fainting spells in particular – then you won’t qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.

If however, treatments fail to control your symptoms, you may be able to meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) listing for atrial fibrillation or may be able to qualify for benefits under a medical vocational allowance, following an evaluation of your functional capacity.

Meeting the SSA’s Atrial Fibrillation Listing

The SSA utilizes a manual of potentially disabling conditions – the Blue Book – the evaluate applications for SSD benefits. Atrial fibrillation is evaluated under the Blue Book listing for arrhythmia, which appears in section 4.05 – Recurrent Arrhythmias.

To meet the SSA’s listing for recurrent arrhythmia, you atrial fibrillation must:

  • Cause loss of consciousness, altered consciousness, or fainting spells at least three times in 12 consecutive months.
  • Present with EKG results that document your fainting or consciousness-related symptoms are caused by your arrhythmia.
  • Result in ongoing episodes of fainting and/or loss of, or altered, consciousness even when following prescribed treatments.
  • Not be the result of a physical condition that’s reversible, such as a heart injury that can be repaired through surgery.

Meeting the Listing for another, Related Condition

If your atrial fibrillation has resulted in heart failure or stroke, other listings in the Blue Book may also apply, including:

Many who have atrial fibrillation also have other concurrent medical conditions, such as compromised kidney function, among others. If kidney issues are among the complications you’ve suffered with your atrial fibrillation, then you’ll want to review the SSA’s Blue Book listing under Section 6.02 – Impairment of Renal Function.

Having concurrent medical conditions can sometimes be enough to qualify you for SSD benefits, even when your application and medical documentation don’t perfectly meet the listed criteria for any single disabling medical condition.

Atrial Fibrillation and Residual Functional Capacity

If you do not meet the listing criteria in the SSA’s Blue Book, your application may still qualify you for SSD benefits, though an analysis of your residual functional capacity (RFC) will be required.

An RFC analysis takes your medical condition, your symptoms, and the frequency and duration of those symptoms into account. The SSA will additionally look at your overall job qualifications, including your employment history, acquired skills, education level, and overall experience.

If your medical condition severely limits your ability to work in your traditional career field, and your qualifications do not make it possible to work in any other field for which you would otherwise be capable, then you can qualify for SSD benefits under a medical vocational allowance.

Getting Help with your Disability Application

Because atrial fibrillation doesn't always cause symptoms, and because most patients with the condition respond well to available treatments, proving your disability with this diagnosis can be challenging. You may want to seek the assistance of a Social Security Disability advocate or attorney when submitting your application, and will certainly want to consider doing so if your initial application for SSD benefits is denied.

Fill out the form on this site to speak with a disability attorney or advocate for a free evaluation.