Atrial Fibrillation and Disability
A chronic heart condition such as nonvalvular atrial fibrillation (AFIB) can easily limit your ability to provide for yourself and your family. Like most heart conditions, it is possible to apply to Social Security for AFIB disability benefits if you have an atrial fibrillation disability.
When it comes to your heart, it pays not to take risks. Taking the time to apply for Social Security disability benefits can provide additional financial security, which will allow you to manage your condition more safely without the stress of worrying about meeting the physical demands of your job.
About Atrial Fibrillation
Thought to affect as many as 33 million people, atrial fibrillation is the most common abnormal heart condition in the world. In the U.S., its prevalence seems to be on the rise — between 2000 and 2010 there was a 23% increase in hospitalizations due to AFIB. Atrial fibrillation is a common type of arrhythmias, which is a disruption of the electrical system of the heart. With AFIB specifically, the atria (the upper chambers of the heart) are squeezed irregularly and too fast.
While AFIB is often asymptomatic, in more advanced cases it has been associated with an increased risk of heart failure and stroke, as well as recurring symptoms such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, fainting, chest pains and exercise intolerance. Not all diagnoses of AFIB are of disabling severity. If your condition causes shortness of breath but does not cause you to lose time at work or does not cause any other symptoms, you may not qualify for benefits — unless you can prove your condition is chronic and affects your ability to do your work. However, you may qualify for disability for an abnormal heart condition if your condition is severe enough to prevent you from working.
AFIB can also cause quality of life issues and can lead to depression and anxiety, especially for women. In addition to affecting work ability, AFIB can make it more difficult for patients with this condition to lead a regular life and to handle normal activity. These secondary issues can affect your ability to work. If they do, you might want to consult with a disability benefits attorney to find out whether you qualify for disability.
If you have been diagnosed with AFIB, your doctor may give you medication to manage the condition. If medication does not work, your physician may recommend a pacemaker to help your heart beat normally. Your treatment – and your response to it – may affect your eligibility for benefits, so it’s helpful to work closely with an attorney to ensure you get the benefits you deserve.
Applying for Disability With AFIB
Because the range of complications for AFIB is so broad, it requires more than a positive diagnosis of the condition to qualify for benefits. Your first step should be figuring out which program you qualify under. In the U.S., the Social Security Administration manages two separate disability benefits programs:
- SSDI: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is available to anyone who has worked in the past and has previously paid into Social Security.
- SSI: Supplemental Security Income (SSI), on the other hand, is based on need. Anyone whose income and assets fall below a certain level can apply for benefits, regardless of his or her work history.
File For Social Security Disability Benefits
Once you’ve determined which program you qualify under, your next step should be to collect medical evidence proving your condition is severe enough to prevent you from working. AFIB is typically covered under the Blue Book listings for recurrent arrhythmias, chronic heart failure or stroke.
To meet the requirements for recurring arrhythmia, you must prove your condition has caused you to lose consciousness at least three times in the past 12 months. You must present EKG results showing the fainting is caused by AFIB and demonstrate that conventional treatment has been unsuccessful in preventing the condition. It must also be proven that your AFIB is a chronic condition and not linked to a disorder that can be alleviated through medical intervention.
If you don’t meet this criteria it is still possible to prove that your AFIB qualifies you for benefits. To do this, you must undergo a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment. This assessment will consider your symptoms and limitations, as well as your age, education, skills and prior work experience to determine whether or not there is any work you can perform that won’t compromise your health.
Denied Disability for Atrial Fibrillation?
Receiving a diagnosis of any heart condition, including atrial fibrillation, is frightening for many people. Most heart patients experience significant changes to their lifestyle and their abilities because of their condition. For this reason, many people are surprised when they are denied disability benefits for their atrial fibrillation.
The reality is that most unrepresented applicants are denied disability benefits — even for significant conditions such as atrial fibrillation. If you have been diagnosed, there are several reasons why you may be denied benefits:
- The SSA may conclude you can perform some duties or take on some jobs, even with your condition
- You may require more objective documentation and medical proof regarding your condition
- You may have to submit further proof that your condition affects your everyday life and your ability work
- Mistakes may have been made in the paperwork you submitted for your disability claim
Essentially, a denial occurs because the SSA finds mistakes or concludes that your condition is not significant enough to warrant disability benefits under current guidelines. Remember, to receive disability benefits you must prove that your disability meets certain definitions of “debilitating” through accepted measures and tests.
If you were denied disability with a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, contact a disability attorney such as Lisa M. Ritacco. An attorney can work with you to launch an appeal.
Atrial Fibrillation Disability Eligibility
A lack of adequate proof is one of the most common reasons for a denial of disability benefits for heart conditions. For atrial fibrillation, there are a few ways to prove your eligibility for benefits:
- Keep careful records. In atrial fibrillation cases, the severity of your condition will be measured by your limitations, your medical expectations and treatments, and the symptoms you experience. Specifically, patients with atrial fibrillation who experience severe and frequent fainting resulting from their atrial fibrillation are more likely to be approved for medical benefits. Unfortunately, you may not always remember or be able to prove when fainting occurred. Keeping careful documentation of each fainting episode, each doctor’s appointment, all your medical treatments, and more can help you prove the severity of your situation.
- Understand the definitions. Get to know SSA requirements for eligibility for atrial fibrillation. Ask questions and make sure you understand how to prove your case.
- Work with your doctor to receive the testing you need. It’s important to submit CT scans, ultrasounds, chest x-rays, MRIs, electrocardiograms, blood test results, Holter monitoring results, stress test results, echocardiograms, tilt table test outcomes, and detailed reports from cardiologists and doctors describing your condition and the limitations it can create in your life. Doing so will help you prove your heart condition, especially if your atrial fibrillation doesn’t meet Blue Book requirements for disability.
You can increase your chances of securing benefits if you work with an experienced disability attorney. The law office of Lisa M. Ritacco has been helping claimants secure benefits for a variety of heart conditions for over seven years. Our law office focuses exclusively on Social Security, SSI, workers compensation cases, so our legal team deeply understands the eligibility requirements for these claims.
An AFIB Disability Lawyer May Be Able to Help
If you have AFIB and are considering applying for SSI or SSDI benefits, speak with a disability lawyer first. More than 65% of all claims are rejected upon first submission. Since atrial fibrillation has a wide range of symptoms and because some sufferers have no symptoms, it can be a challenge to prove that AFIB is a severe disability in some cases. An atrial fibrillation attorney can help you collect the evidence you need to present a strong case that will have a better chance of success. A lawyer can also help you mount an appeal if you are rejected.
In Lenni, PA, the law office of Lisa M. Ritacco can provide assistance for all SSI and SSDI disability claims. Contact our office today for your free consultation.