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Heart Disease and Social Security Disability

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Heart Disease related image Photo: Getty Images

Despite efforts to educate people regarding cardiovascular and other heart-related diseases and conditions, risk factors, and preventive lifestyle changes, heart disease is still the number one killer in the United States.

While the goal is obviously to prevent heart disease from happening in the first place, many people continue to suffer premature death from heart disease, and others are left disabled as a result of their heart-related conditions.

Unfortunately, some people with heart disease are impacted to the point that even the simplest daily tasks may become seemingly insurmountable obstacles. This interferes with their quality of life and sometimes leaves the heart patients unable to work.

What do you do when you find yourself suddenly unable to work due to heart disease? Many who find themselves permanently unable to do the work they’ve done in the past seek financial relief from the Social Security Administration (SSA) in the form of Social Security Disability Insurance, also referred to as SSD or SSDI.

SSD is a monthly benefit providing the disabled worker money to purchase necessities such as food, clothing, or shelter while they are unable to work. It’s important to note that SSD benefits do not replace the income that you had when you were able to work. Depending on what you made before, SSD pays between 30 and 59 percent of your former income.

Applying for SSD can be time-consuming and onerous. In addition to completing an application, applicants must provide information regarding discharge from military services, W-2 forms, tax returns, social security numbers and bank information.

Applicants must also provide additional documentation such as medical records, including dates of all treatments and treatment providers, all medications and dates of tests. They must also provide information on all jobs held for the past five years and any worker compensation claims.

Heart-related illnesses fall under the category of “cardiovascular system”, which includes such conditions as chronic heart failure, cardiomyopathy, ischemic heart disease, etc. Qualifying for benefits can be complex. Applicants must demonstrate they’re unable to perform tasks that are normally required for their job and prove they’re earning less than $1,000 per month.

The SSA reviews the jobs that they’ve held in the past, their education, age and the severity of their heart disease. SSA also determines whether or not the applicants are unable to do work, or if heart disease has rendered them unable to do the type of work they have done before.

Eventually, a disability index is assigned. Even if the applicant is approved for benefits, there is still a six month waiting period before they can receive the benefits. According to the SSA office, if applicants receive approval to receive benefits in January, they shouldn’t expect to receive any money until August because they pay on a one month delay.

The process may get easier for people suffering from cardiovascular-related conditions. The SSA is considering adding heart disease to the list of conditions that qualify for a “Compassionate Allowance” or CAL. The CAL is a way to ease the disability-determining process because the diseases and conditions on the CAL list are so severe that the disability standard is considered met. Typically, the CAL list includes conditions such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), acute leukemia, numerous cancers and other conditions.

Public outreach hearings were held in February to provide input regarding whether or not cardiovascular disease (or at least some cardiovascular conditions) should be added to the CAL list. In addition to the results of the public hearings, the SSA will seek input from the medical and scientific communities, internal information and comments from the SSA and Disability Determination Service, and research and input from the National Institutes of Health. Approval for inclusion on the CAL list will benefit those disabled due to cardiovascular disease, enabling them to navigate the application process more easily and obtain benefits sooner.


Heart Disease and Social Security Disability Insurance, Allsup, Inc., 17 Jul 2011, http://www.allsup.com/about-ssdi/ssdi-guidelines-by-disability/heart-disease.aspx
Compassionate Allowances, Social Security Administration, 12 Jul 2011, http://www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances/

William C. Babut, P.C., SSD Compassionate Allowance for Heart Disease on the Horizon?, 17 Jul 2011, US Politics, http://uspolitics.einnews.com/247pr/224530

Frequently Asked Questions, Social Security Administration, http://ssa-custhelp.ssa.gov/app/answers/list/session/L3RpbWUvMTMxMTAwMTA4My9zaWQvWXhUX2Fpems%3D/c/105,142

Compassionate Allowances, Social Security Administration, 12 July 2011, http://www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances/

Reviewed July 19, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Shannon Koehle

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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