You may be able to get disability benefits for heart disease, but because “heart disease” is a relatively broad term, the process can be unique for each individual.
Heart disease can refer to several different cardiac conditions; some of the more common conditions approved for disability are:
- Coronary heart disease
- Ischemic heart disease, and
- Congestive heart failure.
The common thread is calcified plaque, a hard substance that builds up in the arteries of the heart (as well as other blood vessels in the body), causing restricted blood flow. While the severity of heart disease varies, it’s most commonly marked by chest pain.
The good news is the Social Security Administration (SSA) does offer disability benefits for heart disease. The bad news is that the SSA doesn’t give them to everyone who has been diagnosed with heart disease or even to everyone who has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. The primary qualifier for disability benefits in any situation is, according to the SSA, “the inability to perform substantial gainful activity”—in other words, your disability needs to be debilitating to the point that you can’t work at all. In the event of heart disease, any kind of physical activity will need to be painful or fatiguing to the point that even a seated job is too taxing on your body.
Heart Disease History Documentation
When you apply for disability benefits, the SSA will want to see written documentation of these symptoms. Heart disease can be a difficult disability to present on paper, but tests from your doctor indicating that:
- You’ve performed poorly in exercise tolerance tests.
- Your imaging tests show problems with the heart muscle will help immensely.
- You’ve made a clear and consistent attempt at treatments.
Your primary care physician will be able to provide this documentation for you, but it’s also a good idea to see a cardiologist.
How Your Heart Disease is Diagnosed
The diagnosis of coronary heart disease (also called atherosclerosis) will be done via an electrocardiogram and cardiac catheterization. While both of these tests can definitively confirm that you have a heart disease, they won’t be enough to access disability benefits on their own. Severe chest pain will still need to be documented by your doctor, as well as a history of heart surgeries and repeated attempts to return to work. If you’ve been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, you’ll need to fail those same exercise tests and have a history of heart failure or poor ejection fracture.
Work History Documentation
Your medical history is just one component of the documentation you’ll need. You will also want to bring an extensive work history with you, along with notes from family, friends, and co-workers detailing how your heart disease has affected your life and your ability to be productive. Consider writing down as many personal anecdotes as you can, such as in a journal. Are there any moments of horrible chest pain or shortness of breath that surface when you think about your disability? Be sure to prepare those so you can better illustrate how heart disease limits your ability to work.
Talk to a Professional
Applying for disability benefits of any kind can be tough, but it’s even harder with a broad disability like heart disease. That being said, it might be a good idea to speak with an experienced Social Security attorney or advocate to make sure your application efforts are successful the first time. A rejected application can take months to appeal, barring you from the disability benefits that might be crucial in order to support yourself and/or your family.
A disability attorney or advocate may be able to increase your chances of garnering benefits the very first time you apply. After all, the sooner your claim is approved, the sooner you’ll be able to access the benefits! To see if you may qualify for free legal assistance, click the button below to start your claim evaluation now.