WHAT IS HEART DISEASE?
Heart Disease generally refers to coronary artery disease (CAD) also known as ischemic heart disease (IHD). Heart disease occurs when a substance called plaque builds up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart (called coronary arteries). Plaque is made up of cholesterol deposits, which can accumulate in your arteries. When this happens, your arteries can narrow over time. This process is called atherosclerosis.
Plaque buildup can cause angina, the most common symptom of CAD. This condition causes chest pain or discomfort because the heart muscle doesn’t get enough blood. Over time, CAD can weaken the heart muscle. This may lead to heart failure, a serious condition where the heart can’t pump blood the way that it should. An irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, can also develop.
For some people, the first sign of CAD is a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when plaque totally blocks an artery carrying blood to the heart. It also can happen if a plaque deposit breaks off and clots a coronary artery.
CAN I RECEIVE SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR HEART DISEASE?
Heart Disease can cause symptoms, limitations, and restrictions that can impact your ability to work. Social Security Disability benefits may be available to you if you have suffered from heart disease.
If you are not engaging in gainful activity due to heart disease and its symptoms or limitations, the Social Security Administration must determine if you have an impairment that is “severe.” This is step 2 of the evaluation process. (Visit my prior blog post explaining the steps of Social Security’s Sequential Evaluation Process.)
Generally, to establish heart disease as a medically determinable severe impairment, you should provide:
- Objective medical testing establishing heart disease (i.e., EEG, EKG, stress test results, etc.); and/or
- Evidence of consistent and repeated attacks despite treatment
At step 3 of the Sequential Evaluation Process, the SSA determines if your condition meets a listing. For heart disease, SSA will determine if your condition meets Listing 4.04. This is a complex listing that requires substantial medical evidence and knowledge of your specific type of heart disease and objective testing results.
The key to meeting the listing is to have the appropriate objective medical testing and a longitudinal medical history that addresses each of the requirements. A knowledgeable social security attorney can help you determine if your residual effects meet the listing.
If your related symptoms do not equal a listing, the Social Security Administration will next assess your residual functional capacity (RFC) (the work you can still do, despite your heart disease), to determine whether you qualify for benefits at steps 4 and 5 of the Sequential Evaluation Process. The lower your RFC, the less the Social Security Administration believes you can do. In determining your RFC, the Social Security Administration adjudicator should consider all of your symptoms in deciding how they may affect your ability to function.
TIPS FOR SSDI APPLICATION FOR HEART DISEASE
- Make sure that the medical records diagnosing the heart disease are included. This may be an EEG, EKG, stress test, nuclear test, or other appropriate testing. It is important that you “know your medical records.”
- Make sure your medical records document ALL of your symptoms and limitations and the residual effects you experience. Your medical records should not just document your heart disease, they should include notes on your symptoms like how often you feel symptoms, how severe each symptom is and how long each symptom lasts. Make sure that all your medical problems are adequately documented by your doctor, and that you are receiving the appropriate medical attention for all of your disabling symptoms. Make sure any side effects of medication are noted in your records.
- Have someone assist you with your claim if your memory, concentration, etc. prevent you from completing the forms yourself.
- See a specialist. Treatment of heart disease by a cardiologist will carry more weight than the same diagnosis and treatment from a family physician or internist.
- Comply with your doctor’s orders and try what is recommended like diet and exercise, smoking cessation, weight loss, etc. The key is that you want your records to show that you are concerned about your health and are working with your doctor to improve.
- See a mental health professional. If you are suffering from depression or anxiety as a result of the chronic problems and inability to participate in life, see a mental health professional to diagnose, treat, and document these conditions.
- See your doctor regularly and keep your appointments.
- If you can, provide evidence of a long work history.
- Provide examples of unsuccessful attempts to return to work and/or unsuccessful attempts to work in a decreased capacity, if applicable.
- Include information from nonmedical sources to support your medical claims. Gather Information from neighbors, friends, relatives, clergy, and/or past employers about your impairments and how they affect your function. Have them document changes that they have seen in your ability over time. These are not given nearly as much weight as testimony from a medical professional, but they don’t hurt.
- Keep a journal. Make regular notes about your impairment, level of function, and treatments.
- If you need assistance with your claim, contact disability lawyer, Loyd Bourgeois at 985-240-9773 or submit an online case evaluation.