Heart Transplants and Social Security Disability

There are approximately 3,500 heart transplants (also known as cardiac transplants) performed each and every year. There are a number of conditions that can lead to a heart transplant and many of the people who are awaiting a heart transplant are already receiving Social Security Disability benefits. These individuals wonder what will happen to those benefits once the transplant is completed, since the heart transplant is intended to “cure” the disabling condition that the person is suffering from. The following information will help you understand how a heart transplant affects your eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits.

Heart Transplant Condition and Symptoms

A heart transplant is a surgical procedure that replaces a diseased or damaged heart with a healthy heart from an organ donor. There are two types of heart transplants that can be performed. With an orthotopic heart transplant, the failing heart is removed and the donor heart is trimmed to fit the patient's remaining left atrium. The great vessels are then sutured into place and the new heart is restarted. With a heterotopic procedure, the damaged heart is not removed before the new donor heart is implanted. Instead, the new heart is positioned so that the chambers of both hearts can be connected to form a double heart. This gives the patient's original heart a chance to recover and if the donor's heart happens to be rejected or fail for some other reason, it can be removed and the original heart can begin working again. This type of heart transplant is only used when the donor heart is not strong enough to function on its own.

The reasons for a heart transplant may vary. Common conditions that result in the need of a heart transplant include coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart defects, valvular heart disease or failure of a previous heart transplant. A heart transplant is a very invasive operation and is not without its risks. Complications can arise and there is a chance that the donor heart can be rejected by the body after the transplant has occurred. Other symptoms that a heart transplant patient may experience include fatigue, water retention, shortness of breath and fever. Some of these symptoms are signs that the heart is being rejected. In these situations, the patient must be closely monitored and treated with medication.

It is obvious that an individual will be unable to work for quite some time following a heart transplant procedure. Because of this, individuals who are undergoing this type of surgery should apply for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income.

Filing for Social Security Disability with a Heart Transplant

People who have undergone a heart transplant surgery have an easier time being awarded disability benefits than many other Social Security Disability applicants. This is due to the fact that heart transplants are covered under section 4.09 of the SSA's published disability guidelines. According to this section, a disability applicant will automatically be considered to be disabled for a period of one year following the date of the heart transplant surgery. After that one-year period is up, the SSA will evaluate the residual impairment and will place the person's condition under the appropriate disability listing.

This means that once you receive a heart transplant, you are automatically eligible for Social Security Disability benefits for a period of one year. Once that year has ended, your automatic eligibility is no longer in effect. Your physical well-being will then be re-assessed by the Social Security Administration to determine whether or not you still qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.

If it is determined that you are no longer disabled after one year, your Social Security Disability benefits will be discontinued. If you are still disabled after the twelve-month period and cannot possibly maintain full-time employment, you will need to prove to the SSA that you are still unable to work due to your heart transplant procedure or some other underlying condition.

A Heart Transplant and Your Social Security Disability Case

Surprisingly, only thirty percent of the disability claims received each year are approved by the Social Security Administration. However, in the case of your heart transplant, your approval is nearly guaranteed for the twelve-month period following the procedure. If, for some reason, your claim is denied or if the Social Security Administration tries revoking your benefits after that first twelve-month period, you will need to obtain the services of a qualified Social Security Disability attorney or advocate.

If the twelve-month time period since the date of your heart transplant has passed and you are still unable to work, you may have to fight to keep your Social Security Disability benefits in effect. If this is the case, your attorney or advocate can gather the medical evidence that you will need to prove that you are still unable to perform any type of work.

To learn more about filing for Social Security Disability benefits due to a heart transplant or how to keep your benefits at the end of the twelve-month disability period, or to learn more about working with a Social Security Disability lawyer, simply fill out the form for a free evaluation of your SSD case.