I frequently speak to prospective clients who are applying for disability based on heart disease. Heart disease cases are often approved by Social Security judges because they know that there are a number of limitations that arise from cardiac problems, including:
- shortness of breath
- lack of energy
- chest pain
- lifting restrictions
- standing/walking restrictions
- poor concentration
- slow pace
- medication side effects
Social Security defines “disability” as the inability to engage in substantial activity because of a medically determinable condition that has lasted or is expected to last 12 consecutive months. In my experience, heart problems usually create significant activity limitations and they are rarely short term problems, so I have been successful winning disability benefits for my heart disease clients.
Among the most common cardiac issues I see are:
- congestive heart failure
- coronary artery disease
- heart valve issues
- infections of heart tissue (endocartitis)
- decrease in heart pumping capacity following a heart attack
- enlarged heart muscle
- congenital heart problems
- peripheral artery disease
Generally there are three strategies I use to win cardiac cases. I may use one, two or all three of these arguments in your case, depending on the facts and the evidence.
Strategy 1 – do you meet the cardiovascular listing at 4.00? Social Security “listings” contain specific descriptions of various medical conditions. Listing 4.00 contains descriptions of various heart ailments. If we can obtain support from your treating doctor that your condition meets a listing, your case will be approved, often without the necessity of presenting evidence about your reduced capacity for “substantial activity.” If your disease is at listing level, your judge will most likely accept that you would not be able to perform even simple, unskilled work. SSA intentionally makes the listings very difficult to meet so a relatively small percentage of the cases I try involve a listing argument.
Strategy 2 – if you do not meet a listing, is your condition nonetheless severe enough that you would not be able to perform the tasks of even a simple, entry-level job. I call this strategy the functional capacity argument. Remember, Social Security defines disability in terms of your capacity for work or work-like activities (“substantial activity”). Using this strategy, I would present your testimony that describes in detail exactly why you would not be a reliable worker. Most of the cases I try involve this strategy.
Strategy 3 – do you meet a “grid rule?” Social Security’s grid rules are an interesting addition to the disability determination process. Stated simply, the grid rules look at your age, education and past work experience. SSA assumes that if you are over 50 years of age, have a high school or less education and limited work skills, there are not very many entry level jobs in the economy. If you meet one of the grid rules, you will be approved automatically. Again the grid rules apply only to claimants over 50 with limited formal education and limited work skills but they can be a fast and effective strategy to win.
I have had many successful outcomes representing clients throughout North Carolina with cardiac problems. If you have any type of heart disease that has kept you from working, please give me a call to discuss how I might be able to assist you in recovering Social Security disability benefits. My toll free number is 1-866-674-8810 or you can contact me by email at any time.