Important: We updated this article in March 2023 to make sure all info below is both correct and current. About two million Americans have an abnormally fast heartbeat that sometimes causes them to pass out. This is also known as supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), and your doctor might diagnose it as arrhythmia, A-fib or heart palpitations. Not everyone with this heart condition can qualify for Social Security disability, so keep reading to learn the requirements.
How the SSA Decides Your SVT is a Qualifying Disability
The Social Security Administration’s blue book does, in fact, include criteria for evaluating “recurrent arrhythmia” SSD claims. Here are some key things to keep in mind when filling out your disability application for an unusually fast heartbeat:
- A doctor must diagnose your SVT as recurrent and not easily reversible due to any specific cause. Lots of things can cause your heart rate to spike, like intense exercise, dehydration, certain medications, fever, stress, etc. If your heart rate goes back to normal without a specific “trigger,” then the SSA won’t approve your claim. How do you know if your rapid heartbeat counts as SVT? In general, if your pulse is 140-250 beats per minute, then you have SVT.
- You must have ongoing symptoms that don’t improve with prescription medication, surgery, or regular doctor’s treatments. Specifically, the SSA wants to see that you take prescription medication and/or schedule regular doctor’s visits to treat your SVT. Despite all this, your symptoms still exist and are both unpredictable and debilitating.
- Your symptoms must be severe enough to make performing your usual job duties difficult, impossible, or dangerous. An SVT episode may cause temporary heart palpitations, dizziness, or lightheadedness. More severe symptoms include things like difficulty breathing, sweating, chest pain, tightness in your throat and fainting. If you have SVT episodes that make you regularly pass out at work, then you likely qualify for disability.
- People over 50 and those with multiple health issues have the highest chance of disability benefit approval. The SSA does approve disability claims for just one health problem, but it’s rarer than you might think. Younger applicants are more likely to continue their education, change careers, or move to find jobs with their current limitations.
What Medical Evidence or SVT Tests Do You Need Before You Apply?
Just because your doctor says you’re disabled doesn’t mean you automatically qualify for Social Security disability. The SSA expects to see certain tests and medical evidence that support your SVT claim for SSD benefits, such as:
- Your most recent exercise stress test results. If you haven’t had one in the last year, the SSA may require a new one using their doctors.
- Any ECG readings, imaging scans and/or chest x-rays from the past 12 months. If you have anything taken within the last 90 days, that’s even better.
- Hospitalization records, especially if you had surgery or catheter ablation within the last year. If you had any outpatient treatments related to your SVT, be sure to include those, too.
- A printed list of all your current prescription and over-the-counter medications. Be sure to include your dosage, frequency, and any side effects that impact your ability to work. You can typically get your pharmacist to print out the last 12 months of Rx fills for free.
- Doctor’s records for any other conditions within the last year, especially related health problems. This might include bloodwork, lab results for thyroid issues, Covid-19, pregnancy, asthma, PTSD, diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, etc.
- Any family history of coronary artery disease, heart disease or previous heart surgeries. For example: If your parents died of heart attacks or you have an artificial heart valve, those documents are relevant.
Tips to Increase Your Chances of Benefit Approval
These tips may help increase your chances of winning SSD benefits for SVT:
- Don’t apply for SSD benefits until after you stop working. If you can still work – even part-time – that tells the SSA you’re not truly disabled from SVT episodes. They will not approve SSD claims from people who can still complete their job duties.
- Gather all relevant medical records and submit those along with your SSD claim paperwork. It’s true that the SSA can simply pull your records after you apply, but it takes much, much longer. They’ll request all medical records from any doctors you list on the form. Then, they’ll go through to find the ones they think matter most. This could add as much as a year to your total wait time before you receive SSD benefits.
- Ask your doctor to type up a statement about how your SVT “functionally limits” your daily activities. Note that this is NOT a letter from your doctor that simply says, “I was diagnosed ____ on (date) as disabled with SVT.” Instead, ask your doctor to provide a written statement describing how your condition limits your ability to perform everyday activities. For example: Can you clean, do dishes, laundry, cook, and generally care for yourself without help? What about transportation? (In other words, is it “unsafe” for you to drive to and from work because you might pass out?)
- Have a Social Security attorney file your SSD application for free. This service costs you nothing if you don’t win benefits. If you do, then your attorney receives one small fee taken from your back benefit award. You will never pay anything out of your own pocket. This ensures your paperwork is correct, you have representation to handle your appeal if denied and maximizes your SSD amount.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
People who have an attorney file their SSD claims are 3x more likely to get benefits right away. Those who qualify for legal assistance through this website usually get $13,000 in back pay as well as monthly benefits. If the SSA won’t approve your application, then you pay $0 for legal assistance. Your disability lawyer only receives payment after you do.
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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.