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SSDI Evaluation

Heart Disease and Social Security Disability Insurance

Here is an explanation of Social Security's five-step process to determine if a heart disease patient qualifies for SSDI:

1. Determine if an individual is "working (engaging in substantial gainful activity)" according to the SSA definition. Earning more than $1,040 a month as an employee is enough to be disqualified from receiving Social Security disability benefits.

2. Conclude the heart disease disability must be severe enough to significantly limit one's ability to perform basic work activities needed to do most jobs. For example:

  • Walking, standing, sitting, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching, carrying or handling
  • Seeing, hearing and speaking
  • Understanding/carrying out and remembering simple instructions
  • Responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers and usual work situations
  • Dealing with changes in a routine work setting
3. Decide if the heart disability meets or equals a medical listing. Heart disease is listed under the cardiovascular system. Satisfying the listing criteria is dependent on the type of heart disease one has, e.g. chronic heart failure, ischemic heart disease, cardiomyopathy, etc. Various studies such as angiography, echocardiography, and electrocardiography are used to assess the severity of the heart disease. For example, an individual with ischemic heart disease who has a left ventricular ejection fraction of 30% or less, is precluded from performing an exercise stress test and has a marked limitation of physical activity would be found to have a listing level impairment.

4. Explore the ability of an individual to perform work they have done in the past despite their heart disease. If the SSA finds that a person can do his past work, benefits are denied. If the person cannot, then the process proceeds to the fifth and final step.

5. Review age, education, work experience and physical/mental condition to determine what other work, if any, the person can perform. To determine heart disease disability, the SSA enlists medical-vocational rules, which vary according to age.

For example, if a person is:

Under age 50 and, as a result of the symptoms of heart disease, unable to perform what the SSA calls sedentary work, then the SSA will reach a determination of disabled. Sedentary work requires the ability to lift a maximum of 10 pounds at a time, sit six hours and occasionally walk and stand two hours per eight-hour day.

Age 50 or older and, due to the heart disability, limited to performing sedentary work, but has no work-related skills that allow him to do so, the SSA will reach a determination of disabled.

Age 55 or older and, due to the disability, limited to performing light work, but has no work-related skills that allow him to do so, the SSA will reach a determination of disabled.

Over age 60 and, due to the heart disability, unable to perform any of the jobs he performed in the last 15 years, the SSA will likely reach a determination of disabled.

Any age and, because of heart disease, has a psychological impairment that prevents even simple, unskilled work, the SSA will reach a determination of disabled.

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