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Social Security Disability Benefits For Recurrent Heart Arrhythmias
I have been diagnosed with recurrent heart arrhythmias. Can I apply for Social Security Disability benefits (SSI/SSDI), Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), or Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI)?
If your doctor has given you a diagnosis of recurrent heart arrhythmias, this is just the start. The main focus in a Social Security disability claim is usually on the symptoms you experience from recurrent arrhythmias 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 (full-time).
Do heart conditions qualify for disability?
Arrhythmia is the medical name for an abnormal heart rhythm. The heart may beat too slow, too fast, or at an irregular rate. Many arrhythmias are familiar, harmless palpitations, but more serious cases can cause shortness of breath, dizziness, and lack of blood flow to vital organs like the brain. Recurrent heart arrhythmias may also indicate damage on the heart.
There are various causes of recurrent arrhythmias. Some people are born with this condition, while some develop it as a result of heart disease. Factors such as stress, smoking, alcohol, caffeine, and certain cough medicines can also affect your heartbeat. Regardless of the cause, persistent episodes of arrhythmia should be given medical attention.
To confirm that this condition is disabling you, the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a five-step evaluation process:
Step 1. Are you working?
The first consideration for the SSA is your work activity. If you are engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) you will not be found as 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 as disabled. If you are not working, or your earnings are less than SGA, the process proceeds to Step 2 where your recurrent arrhythmias, as well as any other medical conditions, are examined more closely.
Step 2. Is your medical condition “severe”?
Disability primarily means that your medical condition significantly limits 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.
The SSA will consider you disabled if you 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, you can proceed to the third step.
Step 3. Does your medical condition meet or equal the severity of a Listing?
The SSA has a list 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 recurrent arrhythmias can be found here.
If none of your impairments meets or equals one of the listings, or if the duration requirement is not met, the SSA proceeds to determine your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). This is what you’re capable of doing despite your impairments.
Determining RFC involves 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.
Step 4. Can you do any of the jobs you have performed in the past fifteen (15) years?
The SSA now 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 if you have not worked in the past fifteen (15) years, the SSA goes on to Step 5.
Still here at Step 4, you have what is called the “burden of proof” or the obligation to 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.
To support a claim for disability based upon recurrent arrhythmias, these are some objective medical evidence to present:
- Cardiovascular test results – May include electrocardiograph or electrocardiogram (ECG), exercise tests, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), angiography, and ultrasound.
- Detailed reports of 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.
In terms of specialists, these are the types of doctors who specialize in treating recurrent arrhythmias include:
- Cardiologists – These are highly trained specialists of the heart.
- Cardiac electrophysiologists – These are heart doctors who further specialize in the heart’s rhythm.
Bear in mind that if you are only treating with your family doctor or primary care doctor for your recurrent arrhythmias, the SSA may believe that your condition is not that serious (otherwise you would be treating with a specialist). Even if you don’t have health insurance, you can find sources of treatment with the help of an experienced Social Security disability lawyer.
Step 5. Can you do any other type of work?
Here, 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, the SSA will find you disabled.
Are you 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 included in your evaluation.
While people may dismiss irregular heartbeat as a common, harmless experience, recurrent heart arrhythmia can have a real impact on your work and your life. If this condition has affected your finances, you may need some form of assistance.
Contact Gillette Law Group
The application process for disability benefits can be strict, but we at the Gillette Law Group can help you pursue an effective claim. We have years of experience in this field, enabling many applicants like you to succeed whether in initial claims or in appeals for previously-denied applications.
Talk to us in a free consultation. Call (855) 873-2604 today.