Tips for Applying for Disability with Heart Problems

Certain cardiovascular problems are eligible to qualify for Social Security disability benefits (SSD). The condition can be congenital or acquired and needs to negatively affect the normal functioning of the heart or circulatory system (arteries, veins, capillaries, and the lymphatic drainage). However, getting approved for disability can be a long, hard process. Here are some tips to help the process go a little more smoothly.

Some common conditions include Coronary Artery Disease, Chronic Heart Failure, Aneurysm, Arteriosclerosis, and Recurrent Heart Arrhythmias. In order to be approved, you need to present sufficient medical evidence to the Social Security Administration (SSA). There are a number of reports and tests available for cardiovascular impairments.

Proving that You Can’t Work

In order to be approved for SSD, you need to prove you can’t perform any type of work, even sedentary. Sedentary work requires occasionally lifting up ten pounds and standing for up to two hours per day. For your claim to be approved, you need as many reasons as possible. Here are some possible examples for a heart condition:

  • Inability to lift ten pounds
  • Inability to stand or walk for two hours a day
  • Inability to sit for six or eight hours a day
  • You need to take constant sick days
  • The need to rest or lie down frequently during the day

Medical Tests and Evidence

Basic Documentation

The SSA needs detailed reports of any physical examinations, laboratory work, previously prescribed treatments and bodily responses, and history from your doctor. The longitudinal clinical observations and treatment record needs to be at least three months long, but the more evidence you give detailing the severity of the condition, the better for your claim. Only in rare cases will a claim be approved on only current evidence if the longitudinal evidence is not available or does not exist.

EKG (ECG, electrocardiograph, electrocardiogram)

EKGs record your heart’s electrical impulses from small contacts placed all over your body. They can identify certain heart abnormalities, like ischemia (your heart muscle isn’t getting enough oxygen), arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), left ventricular enlargement, and others.

The SSA needs an original copy preferably of the 12-lead ECG that is correctly dated and labeled, with the standardization inscribed on the tracing, times recorded, the state of activity (rest, exercise, recovery), the highest level of exercise achieved, heart rate, blood pressure levels, and reason for test termination. Each state has its own testing specifications. If the standardization of specific leads is altered, it must be identified. Descriptions or computer-averaged signals only will not be accepted.

Exercise Tolerance Test (ETT) and Doppler Tests

ETTs can be used for a number of conditions, including coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease, to evaluate progress after a heart attack, ischemia, and estimating your maximal aerobic capacity (MET). They record the responses of your cardiovascular system while you perform physical activity, generally on a treadmill, but sometimes an exercise bike or arm exercise machine. A Doppler test specifically is done at 2 mph at a 12 percent grade for a maximum of 5 minutes. Both tests are similar to an EKG, and their purpose is to determine how much physical activity you can perform safely. If this is necessary, the SSA may purchase the test for you. Results are evaluated based on the level of work that the test becomes abnormal.

Cardiac Catheterization

The SSA won’t pay for this report, but they will include the report in its considerations if you already have one. For coronary arteriography, the report should state the method of assessing the coronary arterial lumen diameter and the nature and location of obstructive lesions, and drug treatment at the baseline and during the procedure. For left ventriculography, the report should describe abnormal wall motion of the myocardium as hypokinesis (decreased), akinesis (lack of motion), or dyskinesis (distortion), as well as the overall contraction of the ventricle measured by the ejection fraction and chamber volumes and pressures.

Imaging Tests

X-rays and MRIs are used to determine a number of conditions, including single ventricle, aortic atresia, heart failure, heart transplant graft failure, and more.

Hire a Disability Lawyer

Even if you do not have one of the listed conditions in the SSA’s Blue Book, you can still be approved if your heart condition equals another listing. The important thing is proving that you cannot work.

Disability lawyers can not only help get your claim approved quickly so you can start receiving benefits faster, but they can save you the stress of the application and appeal process as well. They can help with:

  • Collecting relevant and necessary medical evidence
  • Preparing the application
  • Interpreting feedback and other communications from the SSA

Additional Resources