A staggering 5 million people in the United States currently live with congestive heart failure (CHF).
While some are able to continue living their normal lives, some people experience severe, daily problems because of these heart complications.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with heart failure, it may be in your best interest to apply for disability benefits. Millions of Americans in need receive monthly Social Security benefits for their disabilities to help with the financial strain of a severe disorder.
Step One: Determine How Much Your Heart Failure Limits You
Before beginning the application, it is important to take note of all the ways your heart failure affects your daily life.
This will help to determine if disability benefits are a good fit for you, and may help the Social Security Administration (SSA) later on when you describe your situation.
Heart disease can have a variety of affects on the body. For example, some people experience regular shortness of breath, fatigue, and weakness because of their heart failure. This can make anything from going to work to going to the bathroom a troubling task.
Some people also experience unpredictable nausea, difficulty concentrating, or chest pain, which can make it difficult to work reliably, take care of children, or maintain the home.
If your heart failure symptoms are preventing you from living your normal life, then disability benefits are likely a good option for you.
Step Two: Consult the Blue Book and Collect Test Results
When the SSA reviews applications, they look for applicants that are considered “totally and permanently disabled”. This term is used to describe people whose severe physical or mental disorder is expected to a) last longer than one year, or b) result in death.
Those whose disorders are severe enough and last long enough to fit this description are considered medically qualified for benefits. To determine this, the SSA compares all applicants to their disorder’s entry in the “Blue Book”, a list of all Social Security-approved disorders.
Heart failure is listed in the Blue Book under section 4.02: “Chronic heart failure”. To qualify, applicants must:
- Show medical documentation of either systolic or diastolic failure in their heart (this is measured using medical imaging, heart posterior wall thickness tests, blood ejection strength tests, etc.)
- persistent symptoms of heart failure that very seriously limits the ability to initiate, sustain, or complete daily activities,
- three or more episodes of acute congestive heart failure within a consecutive 12-month period,
- an inability to perform an exercise tolerance test at a workload of 5 METs or less due to a lack of heart contractions, low blood pressure, or other distress.
You also need to show:
As a general rule: the more your heart failure limits you, the more likely you are to qualify medically for disability benefits.
Step Three: Gathering Paperwork and Preparing Your Application
The Social Security disability application also has financial requirements. This doesn’t mean that applicants need to make a certain amount of money to qualify — it only means that your income and work history will determine which program(s) you may qualify for.
For example, work history showing repeated tax contributions to Social Security may qualify you for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI).
In contrast, a lack of both work history and proper income may qualify you for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) instead.
It is also recommended that you prepare every piece of paperwork you have on hand that can demonstrate your situation to the SSA.
This includes all medical documents, physicians’ notes, hospitalization history, medication lists, pay stubs, bank statements, coworker/boss testimonies, and other general info.
It is always better to provide more than less when applying to Social Security — the more they understand your circumstances, the more likely you are to receive benefits.
Once you’re ready, you can start the application process online or at your local Social Security office.
Contacting a Social Security Attorney
If disability benefits sound right for you, consider consulting with a disability attorney. They can help when filling out applications, ,keeping paperwork organized, and aiding you in the appeals process if necessary.
They are also statistically shown to improve your chances for winning a case and are required not to take payment unless you win.
Before starting your application, consider speaking with a disability attorney today.