According to the American Heart Association, at least 2.7 million Americans live with atrial fibrillation, a type of arrhythmia found in the upper portion of the heart. While some live with this disease without symptoms, others experience pain, shortness of breath, limited mobility and function, or even strokes.
In this case, it is normal to apply for Social Security benefits seeking assistance for your disorder. But what happens if your initial claim is denied? Below, we will explore why your atrial fibrillation application may not have been accepted, and how you can move forward.
Potential Causes for Denial
While there are many reasons that may be particular to your case, below are the two most likely reasons you didn’t initially receive benefits:
- Your arrhythmia was not shown to cause regular issues. One of the main issues people see when applying for arrhythmia is their symptoms are not consistent enough. When the SSA determines disability, they are looking to ensure that applicants are unqualified for work because their symptoms regularly prevent their ability. However, if your arrhythmia only crops up occasionally, even if it is more severe, you are more unlikely to receive benefits.
- You were not documented to experience “recurrent episodes of cardiac syncope or near syncope”. “Syncope” is the medical term used to refer to someone who has, or is about to, pass out. According to the Blue Book, this surpasses mere “dizziness” and refers to frequent troubles standing, being active, or doing anything without the very real threat of passing out due to your condition. Those who demonstrate this (especially on regular occasions) have a much higher chance of receiving benefits. This can be shown with physician analysis, electrocardiography, or any assessment made during an episode of syncope due to atrial fibrillation.
Your Disability Hearing
Getting an initial claim denial does not mean that your chances at benefits are over. In fact, almost 65% of initial applicants receive the same decision as you. If you are still in need of assistance, the next step after a denial is scheduling a disability hearing.
Hearings allow you to present your entire case in front of an administrative law judge (or ALJ) in hopes of getting your case decision reversed. Because waiting lists for these hearings can get long, be sure to schedule your appointment as soon as possible. This can be done by going to your nearest Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR).
In the months before your hearing, do a thorough review of your initial application to see what other evidence you can provide. Receive new medical tests (or redo old ones) to show the persistence of your atrial fibrillation. Medication lists can be especially useful if they show your resistance to normal treatment. Hospitalizations due to your condition can also help to demonstrate its severity. Other helpful documents to bring to your hearing may include physician notes, therapy session logs, testimonies from old bosses/coworkers, or anything else that can attest to the severity of your condition.
Considering a Disability Attorney
If preparing for your hearing feels too daunting or confusing, then it may be best to consider speaking with a disability attorney. Their job exists to help people like you prepare strong cases to help you receive benefits. In most cases, disability attorneys cost much less than other legal help because their pay is limited to 20% of your initial disability payment. This also means that your attorney only gets paid if they win your case, further reducing the risk.
Before your hearing, consider a free consultation with a disability attorney in your area.