An estimated 121 million Americans (nearly half of the population) have at least one type of heart disease. This year, about 720,000 Americans will suffer a heart attack. Almost nine million will experience angina (chest pain) caused by a blockage in the coronary arteries. An estimated one million will die from heart disease, and millions more will suffer severe heart-related disabilities.

The Social Security Administration lists certain heart conditions in Section 4.0 of the Blue Book listing of impairments. These categories are the most severe of conditions These impairments include:

  1. Chronic heart failure – Heart failure occurs when the muscle becomes damaged because it is unable to pump enough blood to keep the organs healthy. In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) for chronic heart failure, an applicant may be required to exhibit symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, palpitations, or tachycardia while taking an exercise tolerance test.
  2. Acute congestive heart failure – Congestive failure occurs when a lack of oxygenated blood causes the kidneys to stop working properly, and the body becomes congested with fluid. A person may qualify for SSDI for congestive heart failure if he suffers three or more separate episodes of congestive heart failure with evidence of fluid retention within a one-year period.
  3. A history of ischemic heart disease – Ischemic heart disease is caused when there is reduced blood supply to the heart muscle. To qualify for SSDI for ischemic heart disease, the applicant may need to prove that he has severe pain due to myocardial ischemia (a blockage in the heart’s arteries) even when following his prescribed treatment plan.
  4. A history of recurrent arrhythmias – Arrhythmias are irregular heart rhythms. For an applicant to qualify for SSDI, he may be required to show that his arrhythmias are not reversible and cause episodes of fainting or near fainting that do not go away with treatment.
  5. Symptomatic congenital heart disease – Congenital heart disease refers to any heart condition present at birth. To be considered disabling, the heart defect should be documented with medical tests and imaging and must have an impact on the individual’s ability to function in daily life.
  6. Heart transplant – A person automatically qualifies for SSDI for one year after heart transplant surgery. After one year, the applicant will be reevaluated under criteria for the condition that caused the damage to the original heart.
  7. Aneurysm – An aneurysm is a bulge in an artery. To qualify for SSDI, the aneurysm should be in the aorta or in any major branch of the heart. The condition should be documented through imaging.
  8. Chronic venous insufficiency – Chronic venous insufficiency is a condition that occurs when the veins can’t pump the oxygen-depleted blood back to the heart. To qualify for SSDI, an applicant may be required to show significant swelling in the legs, visible varicose veins, skin changes, or ulcerations.
  9. Peripheral arterial disease – PAD refers to an obstruction of the large arteries throughout the body. An applicant may qualify for SSDI when PAD has a significant effect on resting blood pressure.

It may be possible to receive SSDI benefits for other heart conditions. Most people do not have the level of severity to qualify for benefits by meeting the strict criteria above. This does not mean that they are not disabled, but rather means that they must show how their limitations prevent them from working. These limitations may include shortness of breath, chest pain, and fatigue. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will evaluate the severity of the heart condition and the impact of that heart disease on a person’s ability to work.

If you are suffering from cardiac disease and are no longer able to work, you may have questions about applying for Social Security disability benefits. Contact us for our free brochure, Give Yourself the Best Chance of Winning Your Social Security Disability Case. We can file your application or appeal your denial. For a free evaluation of your case with an experienced Omaha disability lawyer, contact Cuddigan Law at 402-933-5405 or email us at [email protected].

Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska