Can I Work With Heart Failure?

Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to your body. When your heart can’t pump adequate amounts of blood, the various organs and muscles in your body don’t get enough oxygen, and can’t perform as they are supposed to.

Heart failure can have a number of causes. Some of them are genetic, and others are caused by lifestyle or environmental issues. Heart problems are often affected by factors such as stress, diet (particularly excess sodium and fat in your diet), weight, mental conditions such as depression, and lack of exercise. Depending on the cause, you may be eligible for disability benefits.

While heart disease is often treated successfully with medicine and changes in lifestyle, many of the conditions that lead to heart failure are irreversible. Often, those who have suffered from heart failure find themselves in the position of not being able to continue working, and need to file for Social Security Disability benefits.

To successfully claim Social Security Disability, due to heart failure or any other ailment, you need to prove that your condition makes it impossible for you to perform any kind of meaningful work.

If you are unable to work due to heart failure, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

How Does Heart Failure Affect Your Ability to Do Physical Labor?

Your heart is responsible for pumping blood to the various muscles of your body. If you’ve suffered heart failure, your heart is having a difficult time getting the blood to the various parts of the body. This is true regardless of the exact reason for your heart failure. You can check the Blue Book to see if the cause for your heart failure is listed.

In most cases, those who have suffered from heart failure will have physical restrictions regarding what degree of physical labor they are able to perform. For Social Security Disability purposes, physical labor is divided into heavy, medium, and light physical labor.

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to show that your heart failure causes you to be unable to perform the amount of physical labor required to perform any of the jobs you have done in the past 15 years. The Social Security Administration will also need to determine that you could not reasonably be trained (due to age, level of education, etc) to do lighter work that you may be qualified for.

You will want to make sure that your doctor explicitly states all restrictions on your physical activity; including your ability to life, carry, sit, stand, and walk. While most who have suffered from heart failure have little trouble proving that they are no longer capable of heavy physical work, it can be more difficult to prove that you are incapable of performing lighter forms of physical work. Having a Social Security Disability lawyer review your claim and medical information can prove invaluable when it comes to making sure that everything is phrased in a way that will give your Social Security Disability claim the best chance of being approved.

How Does Heart Failure Affect Your Ability to Do Sedentary Labor?

Sedentary jobs are less physical than other work situations, but they often require a high degree of manual dexterity. Some sedentary jobs, particularly those involving management or sales, are also known for being high-stress careers. If your heart failure has caused a loss of manual dexterity or precludes you from working in high stress environments, you will want to make sure you document this on your Social Security Disability benefits claim.

Often, heart failure is caused (at least in part) by factors such as stress and depression. You will want to make sure your doctor and any mental health professionals you are working with thoroughly document any non-physical causes believed to be responsible for your heart failure, as well as any restrictions these conditions cause.

Qualifying with Heart Failure using Medical Vocational Allowance

Not all conditions will meet the Blue Book standards to receive disability benefits, and if that is the case then you still might qualify under the medical-vocational allowance guidelines. While you might not be considered to be disabled by the Social Security Administration standards, your condition might keep you from performing required tasks at your job.

The medical-vocational allowance factors in your age, education, work history and residual function capacity (RFC) to determine whether you would be able to work at all, either with accommodations for your condition or in a different position. The RFC is a measurement of the maximum amount of work you are capable of performing given your condition.

The SSA will evaluate your ability to perform exertional demands of work (walking, standing, sitting, lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling) and nonexertional demands of work (mental, postural, manipulative, visual, communicative and environmental). If you are unable to adjust to other work because of your condition, then you may qualify to receive disability benefits under the medical-vocational allowance.

The SSA will use the medical documentation provided in your application to make their decision about whether you will qualify for a medical-vocational allowance, which is why that information should be as thorough as possible.

Trial Work Program

Some people don’t know if they will be able to work with their conditions, and so the Social Security Administration has a trial work period that allows you to work and earn money without losing your designation as being disabled.

When you enter a trial work period, you cannot work more than 9 non-consecutive months in a rolling 60-month period. Under the SSA guidelines, in 2019 any month where you earn more than $880 is considered a month of work. That monthly amount will change each year, so make sure that you’re aware of what that number is each year.

How To Apply

There are three ways to apply for Social Security disability benefits: Online, via mail and in person at your local Social Security Administration branch office.

Applying online is the easiest option. Once you create an account on the SSA website, you can log in to start your application. The day you start working on your application will also automatically serve as the starting point for any back pay you are qualified to receive.

You can also file a paper copy of the application. You can either print a copy from the SSA website or you can pick one up in person at a local SSA branch office. Once completed, you can either mail the application or turn it in at your local SSA branch. Make sure that you have a copy of your application and supporting medical documentation in case it gets lost in transit.

If you know you will be filing your application, you can establish your filing date by submitting a protective filing date statement in writing to the SSA. The protective filing will act in the same way as when you start your application online, where that date will serve as your official start date rather than the date you actually submit your application.

It’s always a good idea to have a Social Security Disability attorney review your claim, preferably before you file it. Not only will this give you the best chances of approval, but a qualified Social Security Disability lawyer can also give you solid advice and representation during the appeals process, should your initial claim be denied.

Additional Resources

Tips for Getting Disability Benefits for Heart Failure
Heart Transplants and Social Security Disability
How to Apply for Disability Benefits for Heart Failure
Why Was My Heart Failure Disability Application Denied?