Heart disease is the cause of approximately 17% of all health costs today in the United States. It can affect a person’s ability to work, depending on the severity of the condition and the new resulting limitations on basic work related abilities. According to the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services in Texas it is also the number 1 cause of death in Texas (see graphic above).
The Centers of Disease Control has deemed February 2017 as American Heart Month to raise public awareness of the disease and its treatment options as well as to encourage life style changes that impact the source and severity of the disease. This is a good time to consider heart disease and social security disability. Different types of heart conditions may make a person eligible for disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance program. However, merely being diagnosed with a heart condition does not necessarily qualify a person for benefits.
Let’s consider one heart condition, Coronary Artery Disease. This is a condition in which there is a buildup of fatty deposits in the coronary arteries of the heart muscle itself. It can be very serious because the arteries are responsible for supplying blood to your heart muscles. Coronary Artery Disease can result in a heart attack when the arteries are severely blocked, cutting off the supply of oxygen to the heart muscles.
In order to qualify for social security disability benefits because of Coronary Artery Disease, you must prove that you suffer from the symptoms such as severe chest discomfort during exertion, and shortness of breath and how these limitations effect the ability to stand, walk, carry, lift and sit. Most claims for Social Security disability benefits are determined based on the severe challenges that restrict a person from working. Therefore, you must be able to prove that you are unable to perform the work that you were performing in the past, and are not capable of doing a new job. You must provide strong medical evidence that you are incapable of substantial gainful activity, which would help you earn a sustainable income.
Like all disability claims, it is not sufficient to just prove that you in fact have the disease. Qualifying for social security disability based upon Coronary Artery Disease requires inability to do any work despite medical treatment such as cardiologist prescribed medications, and surgery such as coronary bypass, or coronary artery stents.
Lifestyle factors such as obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption are extremely important in Coronary Artery Disease. A survey titled “Cardiovascular Disease in Texas 2012” by the Texas Department of State Health Services reported the following rather troubling lifestyle facts for Texans in 2010:
- About two in three adults (66.6%) in Texas were overweight or obese;
- Texas had significantly higher prevalence of high blood cholesterol (2009), overweight and obesity (2010), no leisure time physical activity (2010) among adults than the U.S.;
While these lifestyle factors are important, it does not mean that in order to qualify for social security disability benefits due to Coronary Artery Disease you must have no bad health habits. Its does mean, however, that a claimant taking no actions to help their condition such as trying to eat better, stop smoking, and get more physicial activity wil have more difficulty winning their case than one who is trying to address their condition wisely.
Many claims for Coronary Artery Disease are rejected at the initial stage. However, the probability of an award of benefits increases at the appeals stage. It’s important not to lose hope if your claim is first denied, and to go ahead and file an appeal with the help of an attorney.