Important: We updated this article in May 2022 with current statistics and SSA policy data. According to the CDC, nearly half of American adults (47%) have high blood pressure. This is also known as hypertension, and if you don’t have it under control, it can cause serious health problems. If you have hypertension, we’ll explain what the Social Security Administration looks for on your disability application below.
Is Hypertension Itself a Qualifying Disability?
The SSA blue book explains how they’ll evaluate disability claims for heart-related conditions like arrhythmia, SVT, stroke, and cardiac arrest. It specifically says hypertension alone is not enough to qualify for disability. However, high blood pressure often leads to other health problems and symptoms that count as a disability when combined. Be sure to list all other high blood pressure-related symptoms and health problems you have on your claim forms.
Specifically, uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk for lasting damage to different parts of your body, including:
- Stroke – Hypertension weakens your brain’s blood vessels until they clog or burst. When this happens, it’s called a stroke. The longer your brain goes without enough oxygen, the more damage occurs. You may have trouble remembering things, following directions, speaking clearly, etc.
- Heart attack – Weak or damaged arteries can reduce the blood supply to your heart. When this makes your heart muscle tissue die, it’s called a myocardial infarction or heart attack. This can make eight-hour shifts where you stand, walk or carry heavy items much harder.
- Vision loss – Increased pressure over time can strain and weaken the blood vessels in your eyes. This means your sight gradually worsens, which may stop you from doing certain jobs (i.e., air traffic controllers).
- Kidney disease or failure – Without enough oxygen, your kidneys can’t effectively filter your blood. You may feel weak, sick to your stomach, bloated, confused or dehydrated and even need to go on dialysis. Symptoms like these make working physical jobs almost impossible for you until you get them back under control.
If the above don’t apply to you, list your other doctor-diagnosed medical issues. For tips on getting your symptoms under control without medication, read Blood Pressure Down: The 10-Step Plan to Lower Your Blood Pressure in 4 Weeks — Without Prescription Drugs.
How the SSA Determines Who Qualifies for Disability Benefits
Just because your doctor says you’re disabled doesn’t mean you automatically qualify for Social Security disability. Instead, the SSA looks at things like:
- How old are you? If you’re between 50 and 64 years old when you apply, it’s much easier to get approved for SSD benefits. But if you’re younger than 18 or older than 65, you’re not eligible for Social Security disability.
- Do you have a college degree? Having a bachelor’s degree or higher makes disability approval much harder. That’s because the SSA expects you to find another good-paying job based on your education alone.
- Have you worked recently enough and in the right jobs to qualify for SSD? You need to earn 40 work credits in order to qualify for Social Security disability. If you stop working for more than five years, then your disability insurance coverage through the federal government ends automatically. Your Social Security taxes taken out of every paycheck pay those monthly policy premiums. If your employer doesn’t withhold FICA taxes (also known as Social Security taxes), then you still might not qualify. Teachers, federal employees and service-industry workers (bartender, waiter) usually don’t pay FICA taxes out of every paycheck.
- Are you already getting some Social Security benefits? Many people start drawing early retirement at 62. If you do this, then you cannot qualify for SSD payments. That’s because SSD lets you access regular Social Security before your full retirement age (FRA). In fact, disability is the only way to get your normal Social Security amount before your FRA.
Tips to Pass the Disability Medical Requirements with Hypertension
The SSA has its own internal definition of the word “disability,” and it’s not what most people think. Your doctor saying you’re disabled is not enough to qualify for benefits. Instead, the medical examiner wants to know:
- Is your hypertension bad enough for you to stop working at least 12 months? Having blood pressure at or above 140/90 usually isn’t enough. You must show how hypertension specifically prevents you from working for one year or longer. Listing all your other health issues from hypertension helps support your case.
- How often does your doctor treat your hypertension and other conditions? If you haven’t seen a doctor in at least 90 days, it may hurt your case. Routine doctor’s visits and prescription medication for hypertension will strengthen your disability claim.
- Can you find other work to do with the limitations you have now that pays a similar wage? For example: If you cannot work construction full-time with your symptoms, would your company give you an office job instead? Is another employer in your area looking to hire someone with your educational background and work history?
In our experience, the best way to prove hypertension makes you unable to work is to show, not tell. You want to show the SSA’s doctor that you cannot do things like pick up a dropped pencil without help. Or you can’t stand up for a full eight hours, but instead must alternate sitting and standing during work shifts. Your doctor may also expect you to prop your feet up every few hours to relieve swelling due to hypertension. These are all good reasons for the SSA to approve your disability claim for high blood pressure.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Having an attorney file your disability claim makes you nearly 3x more likely to get benefits on your first try.
Every Social Security lawyer works on contingency. In other words, you can get a free, no-obligation consultation and get confidential answers to your claim questions. Once you complete your online evaluation, a local disability advocate will call you within one business day. You don’t have to meet in person or put your health at risk to get this legal assistance. Best of all, if the government doesn’t award you disability benefits, you pay $0 for claim help. And if you win, you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now!
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.