The Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) rules for disability are strict. Even with a serious heart condition, you may not meet the severity level requirements to receive benefits. If you have a heart attack, then you may now qualify for disability, even if you didn’t before. It really depends on your specific circumstances, including how severe your chronic cardiac condition is and how significant your post-heart attack impairments are.
Basic Eligibility for Disability Benefits
Any heart condition can disrupt your ability to work, but for a cardiovascular condition to qualify for disability benefits, it must be so severe that it has or will stop you from working for a period of at least 12 months. Even a heart attack may not be enough to meet this severity level requirement, since many people go through treatment and cardiac rehab within just a few weeks, often regaining all or most of their pre-heart attack functional abilities.
Meeting a Disability Listing after a Heart Attack
Perhaps your heart condition already placed certain limits on your abilities. If after having a heart attack you experience even greater physical and/or mental limitations, then you may meet one of the SSA’s disability listings, even if you didn’t before.
For example, let’s say you have coronary artery disease, which is one of the leading precursors to a myocardial infarction (MI), or heart attack. Qualifying for benefits under the disability listing for this condition requires you have pronounced symptoms of ischemic heart disease even though you’ve followed prescribed treatment, OR that you have one of the following:
- Major exercise intolerance, including pronounced fatigue following even minimal physical exertion
- Three, separate incidents of vascular narrowing or blockages within a 12-month period that require catheterization, angioplasty, or surgical intervention
- A 50 to 70 percent narrowing of a major, coronary vessel that cannot be bypassed surgically
Long before coronary artery disease advances to the point that it meets this disability listing, it can cause symptoms that stop you from working or working the way you once did. Even if you didn’t meet the ischemic heart disease disability requirements prior to your MI, a heart attack may tip the balance, causing you to experience limitations that are severe enough to satisfy the qualification requirements now.
Disability Approval by Matching a Listed Condition
You may also qualify for benefits by matching, in terms of severity, one of the cardiovascular disability listings. In other words, you don’t have to meet a listing exactly. As long as your medical records show your symptoms, complications, and physical and/or mental limitations are a severity level match to a listed disability, the SSA can approve you for benefits.
Getting Help with Your Disability Claim
A thorough disability application takes a lot of work, but you don’t have to go through the process alone. You can get help from a friend, family member, or a legal advocate, like a disability attorney. A lawyer that specializes in disability claims can assist you with your application, with gathering evidence, and with arguing eligibility through appeals, if necessary. He or she may even be able to increase your chances of approval, especially if you must attend an appeal hearing before receiving a final decision on your claim.