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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 your 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. If you need an attorney to help you apply for disability benefits, click here to contact Cannon Disability Law. We will give you a free consultation over the phone to see if you are eligible for benefits.

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. The forms you complete and send to the SSA influence the disability decision.  Here is more more information about how to  appeal your disability denial from the SSA. Likewise, your hearing testimony about your heart impairments can make the difference between winning and losing your disability case. Additionally, here is information about  what questions the judge will ask at your disability hearing.

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 man chest painHEART 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 Can Demonstrate a Heart Attack

An exercise tolerance test at a workload equal to 5 METS or less, resulting in at least one of the following abnormalities:

  1. 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
  2. At least 0.1 millivolt (1 mm) of ST segment elevation during exercise, which lasts 1 minute or more into the recovery period
  3. 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
  4. Ischemia documented at an exercise level of 5 METS or less on proper medically acceptable imaging, such as stress echocardiography.

Ischemic Episodes

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.


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:

1. Angiographic evidence showing:

a. 50 percent or more narrowing of a nonbypassed left main coronary artery; or

b. 70 percent or more narrowing of another nonbypassed coronary artery; or

c. 50 percent or more narrowing involving a long (greater than 1 cm) segment of a nonbypassed coronary artery; or

d. 50 percent or more narrowing of at least two nonbypassed coronary arteries; or

e. 70 percent or more narrowing of a bypass graft vessel; and

2. Resulting in very serious limitations in the ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities of daily living.


The medical record must show that your heart effects your ability to complete activities. For example, if you have ongoing heart disease, you might have difficulty shopping or walking upstairs. Likewise, you would have difficulty lifting heavy or even light objects. Exerting yourself probably causes chest pain. You could also have chest pain or shortness of breath, during the day or night, even without exertion.

Make sure you talk to your doctor about how your heart attack. Also, talk to your doctor about how your ongoing heart disease is impacting your ability to do chores. Be sure to tell your doctor how you cannot take care of yourself and your family. If you cannot do chores around the house, then chances are good you will not be able to return to work. Your doctor needs to document these impairments in your medical record. The SSA uses your doctor’s statements as evidence of disability. If you cannot work due to heart disease, contact Cannon Disability Law. We can help.

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