YOU HAD A HEART ATTACK? CAN YOU GET DISABILITY?
HEART ATTACK AND DISABILITY BENEFITS
You had a heart attack and you want to know if you qualify for disability benefits. It is a good question. And the answer depends on whether you heart condition impacts your ability to function. A heart attack can be a serious, disabling event. Some people will recover within a reasonable time and be able to resume their normal activities. Other people continue with severe heart disease and symptoms which keep them from working.
The SSA will evaluate your heart condition for at least 3 months after a heart attack. They will be looking, for example, at your physical ability to exert yourself after the heart attack. Medical records from your doctor will show whether you can exert yourself without shortness of breath, chest pain, or similar symptoms.
SSA publishes a cardiovascular listing that includes heart attack as a disability. Under the Cardiovascular System, Listing 4.04 – Ischemic Heart Disease, the SSA recognizes certain tests and symptoms that equate to a disability.
Heart Attack Symptoms
Listing 4.04 (A) states in order to receive disability benefits, you must have the following symptoms due to “myocardial ischemia.” For example, you must have:
- angina pectoris, which is chest discomfort caused by activity or emotion and quickly relieved by rest (or rapidly acting nitrates such as nitroglycerin tablets)
- atypical angina, which is pain or discomfort in places other than the chest, such as the inner left arm, jaw, neck, back and upper abdomen
- “anginal equivalent,” which is shortness of breath on exertion, but with no complaints of chest pain or discomfort
- variant angina, which is episodes of angina at rest due to spasm of a coronary artery (this should be demonstrated by transient ST segment elevation on an electrocardiograph (ECG)), or
- silent ischemia, which is the occurrence of myocardial ischemia or myocardial infarction without any pain or other symptoms.
In addition to the symptoms of myocardial ischemia, Listing 4.04 also requires you to have one of the following: either an abnormal stress test, ischemic episodes, or abnormal imaging results — as follows:
Abnormal Stress Test
An exercise tolerance test at a workload equal to 5 METS or less, resulting in at least one of the following abnormalities:
- Horizontal or downsloping ST segment depression of at least -0.10 millivolts (-1.0 mm) (without the presence of digitalis glycoside treatment or low blood potassium), lasting for at least 1 minute into the recovery period
- At least 0.1 millivolt (1 mm) of ST segment elevation during exercise, which lasts 1 minute or more into the recovery period
- Decrease of systolic pressure of 10 mm HG or more below the baseline level or below the preceding systolic pressure recorded during exercise due to dysfunction of the left ventricle, despite a workload increase, or
- Ischemia documented at an exercise level of 5 METS or less on proper medically acceptable imaging, such as stress echocardiography.
Three separate ischemic episodes within a consecutive 12-month period. Each episode must require revascularization or not be amenable to be revascularization. Revascularization means angioplasty or bypass surgery.
CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE
Finally, one can be found disabled if an angiography shows evidence of arterial disease. Listing 4.04C requires evidence of coronary artery disease, demonstrated by angiography or other appropriate medically acceptable imaging, as follows:
ACTIVITES OF DAILY LIVING AFTER A HEART ATTACK
The medical record must show that your ability to complete activities is seriously compromised. For example, if you have ongoing heart disease, you might have difficulty shopping, walking upstairs, and lifting heavy or light objects. You could also have chest pain during the day or night, even without exertion. Make sure you talk to your doctor about how your heart attack and ongoing heart disease is impacting your ability to do chores, take care of yourself and your family. If you cannot do chores around the house, chances are good that you will not be able to return to work. If you cannot work due to heart disease, contact Cannon Disability Law. We can help.