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Social Security Disability Benefits For Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction)
I have suffered from a heart attack (myocardial infarction). Can I apply for Social Security Disability benefits (SSI/SSDI), Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), or Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI)?
Getting a diagnosis of myocardial infarction (heart attack) is just the start of a Social Security disability claim. The main focus of your claim will be on the symptoms you experienced from a myocardial infarction and how those symptoms affect your ability to engage in physical and mental work-related activities eight (8) hours per day, five (5) days per week.
Can you get disability if you had a heart attack?
A heart attack is medically known as a myocardial infarction (MI). This is a result of a prolonged lack of oxygen supply to the heart, causing some heart muscle to get damaged or die. The lack of oxygen could be due to a variety of causes, most commonly the clogging of an artery that supplies oxygen-rich blood to the heart.
Contrary to what many believe, most heart attacks are not sudden. They occur over several hours, typically starting with chest pain. Other signs and symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, and dizziness. Some people who experience mild heart attacks also get a pain that is like heartburn.
It has been found that 25 percent of heart attack victims die even before reaching a hospital. Those who survive are at risk of complications like stroke, heart failure, blood clots, and aneurysm. It is possible to recover from a myocardial infarction, but this is a delicate process because MI weakens the heart to a certain degree.
While a heart attack is clearly a huge disruption in your life, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will want to confirm that you are disabled. This is their five-step evaluation process:
Step 1. Do you work with a gainful activity?
First, the SSA considers your work activity. If you are engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) you will not be found disabled. The amount you must earn to be working at SGA changes each year. For 2018 it is $1,180 per month if you are not blind and $1,970 per month if you are blind. If you are working, and your earnings average more than the SGA limit, then you will not be found disabled. If you are not working, or your earnings are less than SGA, the process proceeds to Step 2 where your myocardial infarction and any other physical or mental conditions are considered.
Step 2. Can your medical condition be considered “severe”?
Disability means that your medical condition significantly limit your ability to do basic work activities such as sitting; standing; walking; lifting; carrying; understanding, remembering, and carrying out simple instructions; making simple work-related decisions; responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers, and work stress; and dealing with changes in a routine work setting.
For the SSA to say that you are disabled, you must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment (or a combination of impairments) that is severe and has lasted or is expected last one (1) year or end in death. If your medical condition is not that severe, you will not be found to meet the requirements for Social Security disability benefits. If your condition is that severe, the SSA goes to Step 3.
Step 3. Does your illness match an SSA listing?
The Social Security Administration maintains a listing of medical criteria that are considered to be so severe that you will be found disabled if your medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) matches them. The Adult Listing for myocardial infarction/heart attack can be found here.
If your impairment does not meet or equal one of the listings, or if the duration requirement is not met, the SSA determines what you’re capable of doing despite your impairments – your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) – and will proceed to Step 4.
RFC is a function-by-function assessment of your maximum ability to do sustained work-related physical and mental activities on a regular and continuing basis (8 hours a day, for 5 days a week) despite the limitations and restrictions resulting from your medically determinable impairments. In short, it is an evaluation of your capacity for full-time work.
Step 4. Can you still do any of the jobs you have done in the past fifteen (15) years?
Here, the SSA decides if your medical condition prevents you from being able to work full-time at jobs you have done in the past fifteen (15) years. If the SSA decides you can perform any of your past relevant work (PRW), you will be found not disabled. To be PRW, the work must have been substantial gainful activity (SGA); performed in the fifteen (15) year relevant period; and performed long enough to learn the job. If the SSA decides you cannot perform your past relevant work, or you have not worked in the past fifteen (15) years, the SSA goes on to Step 5.
You have the burden of proof at Step 4, which means you must present evidence. Two of the strongest types of evidence at this stage are medical records and the opinions of the doctors who are treating you for the conditions that are affecting your ability to work. The strongest medical evidence is what is known as objective medical evidence, or evidence that does not rely upon what you tell your doctors. The strongest opinions are opinions that are offered by doctors who specialize in the condition that is keeping you from working and which are supported by objective medical evidence.
Some types of objective medical evidence that can support a claim for disability based upon myocardial infarction include:
- Cardiovascular test results – May include electrocardiograph or electrocardiogram (ECG), exercise tests, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), angiography, and ultrasound.
- Detailed reports of your medical history
- Physical examinations
- Laboratory studies
- Any prescribed treatment and response
- Longitudinal clinical record – This must cover not less than three (3) months of observations and treatment.
Doctors who specialize in treating heart attack include:
- Cardiologists – They are specialists in diagnosing and prescribing treatments for heart problems.
- Cardiac surgeons – They perform different types of heart surgery.
Note that if you are only seeing your family doctor or primary care doctor for your heart attack, the SSA may interpret this as meaning that your condition is not that serious (otherwise you would be treating with a specialist). An experienced Social Security disability lawyer can help you locate sources of treatment (even if you don’t have health insurance).
Step 5. Are you capable of doing any other type of work?
Here at Step 5, the “burden of proof” is on the SSA. If you cannot do your past relevant work, the SSA looks to see if you would be able to do other work. It evaluates your medical condition, your age, education, past work experience, and any skills you may have that could be used to do other work. If you can do other work, the SSA will determine you are not disabled. If you cannot do other work, SSA will find you disabled.
If you are older than 50, there are special rules that may apply to your claim that can result in a finding of disability even if there is some other work you could perform on a full-time basis. An experienced Social Security disability lawyer will be familiar with these rules and can ensure that they are considered in the evaluation of your case.
It is crucial for you to get specialized medical care if you have suffered a heart attack. Unfortunately, medical bills can quickly become a huge burden. In addition, your ability to earn may be disrupted.
Contact Gillette Law Group
Receiving disability benefits can be a significant relief from your burdens. Don’t let the strict evaluation process discourage you. You can pursue a highly effective disability application that is more likely to get approved, with our help at the Gillette Law Group. We have years of in-depth experience helping numerous claimants succeed, and we can do this for you, too.
Perhaps this is your first time applying, or you are appealing a denied claim. Wherever you are in the application process, talk to us at the Gillette Law Group. We’ll provide you with a free consultation. Call us today at (855) 873-2604.