The Social Security Administration recognizes many physical ailments in determining an individual’s qualification for disability benefits. Diseases of the cardiovascular system are among these. Individuals with a diagnosis of heart failure may qualify for social security disability benefits.
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is a condition in which the heart is unable to pump blood effectively. This results in a lack of oxygenated blood to vital organ tissues. The most common sign of CHF is fluid retention which can result in shortness of breath and swelling in the limbs. Individuals can also experience fatigue, muscle weakness and a cough. Poor cardiac function can be related to heart arrhythmias which can result in dizziness and passing out. There are two types of CHF, systolic dysfunction and diastolic dysfunction. Systolic dysfunction occurs when the heart is unable to contract and pump out blood. Diastolic dysfunction occurs when the heart is unable to relax and fill with blood.
The Social Security Administration recognizes CHF in the cardiac category unless the cause is related to a pulmonary illness, such as pulmonary hypertension or lung disease.
In order for an individual with CHF to qualify for disability benefits there must be diagnostic evidence supporting the condition. This means that the SSA will want to see medical imaging confirming the diagnosis of CHF. This could be a chest x-ray, echocardiogram, cardiac catheterization or other imaging studies. Imaging will provide measurements of the heart’s size, wall thickness, as well as filling pressures and has to identify what type of CHF (systolic or diastolic) and what the heart’s functional capacity is. An exercise tolerance test (ETT) is often used to evaluate an individual’s physical capacity. This test is important because it assess the heart’s ability to manage physical exercise and endurance. The ETT helps the SSA determine your ability to work.
In order to be eligible for SSA disability benefits, the condition of CHF must be chronic, meaning that this will be a lifetime issue. Sometimes patients can encounter acute onset of CHF that is related to a heart arrhythmia, sodium overload or other factors. Acute CHF will not represent a chronic physical impairment and would not qualify for SSA disability benefits. Chronic CHF is confirmed by an evaluation of your past medical history, recent physical exam and the imaging studies mentioned above.