Recurrent Heart Arrhythmias and Qualifying for Disability Benefits
Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Recurrent Arrhythmias?
Author: Attorney Lonnie Roach
According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 12.1 million people in the United States experience heart arrhythmias. An arrhythmia is an uneven heartbeat; instead of the heart beating in a normal rhythm, it feels like the heart skipped a beat, added a beat, or is “fluttering.” It may feel like the heart is beating too fast or too slow, or a person may not notice any symptoms at all. If you are unable to work because of heart arrhythmias, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 12.1 million people in the United States experience heart arrhythmias.
An arrhythmia is an uneven heartbeat; instead of the heart beating in a normal rhythm, it feels like the heart skipped a beat, added a beat, or is “fluttering.” It may feel like the heart is beating too fast or too slow, or a person may not notice any symptoms at all.
The heart is made of two upper chambers called atria and two lower chambers called ventricles.
Normal heartbeat is controlled by the sinus node, a natural pacemaker in the right atrium. The sinus node produces an electrical impulse that starts each heartbeat and causes the atria muscles to contract and pump blood into the ventricles. When this process runs smoothly, it results in a normal heart rate of 60-100 beats per minutes. Arrythmias occur when the electrical impulses that coordinate heartbeats work improperly.
Arrhythmias are classified according to where they occur and whether they are faster or slower than a normal heart rate.
Supraventricular arrhythmias occur in the atrium, the upper chambers, and ventricular arrhythmias occur in the ventricles, the lower chambers. Tachycardia is a fast heartbeat with more than 100 beats per minute while bradyarrhythmia is a slow heartbeat, with less than 60 beats per minute.
Common symptoms of arrhythmias include:
- Racing heartbeat
- Slow heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Pounding in the chest
- Chest pain
- Blurry vision
Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from recurrent heart arrhythmias. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
While arrhythmias can occur even with a healthy heart, there are a variety of factors which may affect a person’s heart rate:
- Heart disease or injury
- Scarring of heart tissue from a heart attack
- Problems with electrical signals in the heart
- Imbalance in electrolytes in the blood, such as sodium or potassium
- Blocked arteries
- High blood pressure
- Underactive or overactive thyroid
- Sleep apnea
- Post-surgery healing
- Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and exercise
- Infection with Covid-19
Even if a person has no symptoms, a doctor may notice an irregular heartbeat during a normal physical exam.
Doctors use several tests to diagnose arrhythmias, the most common being the electrocardiograph, electrophysiological testing, and the Holter monitor. The electrocardiograph, the least invasive, detects the amount of electrical current on the skin when the heart beats. Electrophysiological testing involves inserting a catheter into a vein and working it toward the heart. The catheter is equipped with a camera, allowing a doctor to view any abnormalities. A Holter monitor is a portable EKG that measures the movement of electrical signals or waves through the heart.
Treatment may not be needed if arrhythmias are not causing any significant symptoms or putting the person at risk of a serious complication, such as a stroke.
A range of options are available to correct arrhythmias, including anti-arrhythmia drugs, pacemakers, or an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), a battery-powered device placed in the chest that monitors heart rhythm and detects irregular heartbeats. Lifestyle changes and techniques to trigger the body to relax can also help control arrhythmias.
Qualifying for Social Security Disability for Recurrent Heart Arrhythmias
Though many people with recurrent arrhythmias are asymptomatic, some experience frequent and troublesome symptoms.
Many also suffer from depression and anxiety. Though the Social Security Administration lists recurrent arrhythmias in its Blue Book under Section 4.05, there is no guarantee that an applicant will be approved for disability benefits under this diagnosis. You must prove that your medical condition is so severe it prevents you from working at any job, including sedentary work. You must not be working, (or working and earning less than $1290 per month which is Substantial Gainful Activity in 2021), and your condition must last 12 months. If you meet these non-medical requirements, Social Security will then check to see if your disorder meets the requirements of its listing:
4.05 Recurrent arrhythmias, not related to reversible causes, such as electrolyte abnormalities or digitalis glycoside or antiarrhythmic drug toxicity, resulting in uncontrolled (see 4.00A3f), recurrent (see 4.00A3c) episodes of cardiac syncope or near syncope (see 4.00F3b), despite prescribed treatment(see 4.00B3 if there is no prescribed treatment), and documented by resting or ambulatory (Holter) electrocardiography, or by other appropriate medically acceptable testing, coincident with the occurrence of syncope or near syncope (see 4.00F3c).
This means if you do not experience fainting or you are able to control the arrhythmias with medication, it’s unlikely you will be approved for Social Security Disability benefits.
To qualify for SSDI, you must meet all of the following criteria:
- The arrhythmias must cause fainting or loss of consciousness (syncope) or cause an altered consciousness (near syncope) on at least three different occasions in the past 12 months; AND
- An EKG must verify that the arrhythmias are related to fainting; AND
- Episodes of arrhythmia must occur even with treatment; AND
- The arrhythmias must not be the result of a reversible condition; for example, an imbalance of electrolytes.
You must provide Social Security with detailed medical evidence of the last 12 months of treatment to prove the severity of your condition. This should include the following:
- physical exam report;
- detailed medical records;
- EKG results;
- lab reports;
- names of hospitals and clinics where you received treatment; and
- descriptions of treatments and responses to treatment.
If you do not meet all the requirements in the listing, you may still be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
In this case you should submit an RFC (Residual Functional Capacity) assessment filled out by your doctor stating how your impairment affects your ability to work. For example, because of recurrent arrhythmias you may need to rest throughout the day, or your condition may interfere with your focus, concentration, and ability to keep up with tasks. The form should also include how long you can walk and if you can climb, crawl, or stoop. The Social Security Administration often approves disability on a complete inability to stoop so be sure to report this limitation. Additionally, if you suffer from depression or anxiety and are seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist, include a mental RFC from your doctor. Mental illness can cause problems in focus, getting along with others, and completing tasks.
Using your doctor’s evaluation and their own RFC assessment, Social Security will compare it to the task requirements of your prior job and other jobs to determine if there is any work you are capable of. If Social Security finds that there are no jobs you can do because of your limitations, you will be approved for SSDI.
It is important to note that many people with recurrent arrhythmias also have other illnesses, such as hypertension or kidney disease. By itself one disorder may not meet the requirements of an impairment as stated in Social Security’s Blue Book, but if you have multiple medical conditions, Social Security will consider how those health issues, combined together, limit your ability to hold a job and perform necessary daily tasks.
If you experience recurrent arrhythmias that have affected your work and personal life, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability income.
Providing the necessary documentation and medical evidence can be a complicated and stressful task. An experienced Social Security Disability attorney can help evaluate your case and guide you through the filing process.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.
The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.
- The Duration of Work test. Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
- The Current Work Test. Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.
The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.
- Are you working? Your disability must be “total”.
- Is your medical condition severe? Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
- Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments? The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
- Can you do the work you did before? SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
- Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.
More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you are not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
Author: Attorney Lonnie Roach has been practicing law for over 29 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Roach obtained board certifications from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lonnie is admitted to practice in the United States District Court - all Texas Districts and the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Highly experienced in Long Term Disability denials and appeals governed by the “ERISA” Mr. Roach is a member of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, Austin Bar Association, and is a past the director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association (Director 1999-2005) Mr. Roach and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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