As the Baby Boomers age, the number of people diagnosed with heart disease will increase, simply because there are more of them. This will continue to be one of the leading causes of disability in the US, despite daily medical advances. Some people are still totally disabled by this condition and sustaining Social Security disability due to heart and cardiovascular problems is essential.
Cardiac impairments generally deprive the heart of the oxygen it needs to function adequately. Arteries slowly become blocked, and as the occlusion increases, stamina diminishes. To prove disability, Social Security needs a longitudinal clinical record to assess the severity and duration of the cardiac impairment. The evidence should include detailed diagnostic information and a description of the ongoing management and response. Ideally, an angiogram demonstrates the status of cardiac blockages.
Several years ago, Social Security updated the regulations on cardiac impairments. The changes added information on new tests and treatments. Social Security’s Listing of Impairments now covers chronic heart failure, ischemic heart disease, and peripheral artery disease – any disorder that affects the proper functioning of the heart or the circulatory system.
The law says that to find disability based on cardiovascular impairment, there must be evidence of “symptoms, signs, laboratory findings, response to a regimen of prescribed treatment, and functional limitations.” The illness must result in “very serious limitations in the ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities of daily living.” The remaining capacity to function must be carefully assessed and is the key for a disability claim.
Even though a person may not exactly meet the criteria in the regulation, a disability case may still be won by developing evidence on the functional and even the emotional impact of this devastating illness.
Depression is a common response to this life-threatening illness. In some cases the depression becomes a greater disabling force than the heart condition itself. It is often poorly documented. It is also important to gather medical and other statements about the person’s fatigue level and general stamina, as well as capacity to lift, stand and walk. Memory problems should also be noted.
Social Security has added cardiovascular disease to the 88 other diseases in the “Compassionate Allowances” list. These are conditions that by definition qualify a person for disability benefits. This categorization means that benefits are paid immediately to a person who meets the definition.