February is American Heart Month

Posted February 5, 2021 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Fortunately, it is largely preventable (see links below for heart health tips). If you suffer from a heart condition, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. Certain impairments are considered severe enough by themselves to warrant a finding of disability based solely on your condition. These are Social Security’s “Adult Listings” for disability. The most common Listings for heart conditions are:

  • Aneurysm of the Aorta or Major Branches. Regardless of the cause, you will be considered disabled if appropriate medical imaging confirms an aneurysm of the aorta or any major branch.
  • Chronic heart failure. To qualify for disability benefits, your condition must have systolic or diastolic heart failure. Additionally, your heart conditions must fall within given parameters while it is stable. Additionally, you must meet one of the following conditions: Poor performance on an exercise tolerance test, two or more occurrences of heart failure within one year (must have fluid retention and require hospitalization), or symptoms which would limit your ability to work and which would suggest that an exercise test would present a danger to you.
  • Chronic Venous Insufficiency. You will be considered disabled if you have an obstruction and meet one or more of the following: brawny edema which involves 2/3 or more of your leg from the knee to the ankle or 1/3 from your ankle to your hip OR persistent or recurrent ulcerations which fail to heal after being treated for three months.
  • Heart Transplant. You will automatically be considered disabled for at least one year after a heart transplant.
  • Ischemic Heart Disease. To qualify for disability benefits, you must meet one or more of the following: Coronary artery disease (this requires an angiography, medical imaging, and either an exercise test or medical documentation showing why an exercise test would be too dangerous to your health), three distinct ischemic episodes, with each of them needing revasucularization (or in which revascularization is not possible), or an exercise test which shows that you fall within the SSA’s guidelines for complete disability.
  • Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). Must be shown by medical imaging and fall within the SSA’s guidelines for your blood pressure.
  • Recurrent Arrhythmia. To qualify for disability benefits based on recurring arrhythmias, the medical evidence must show that the condition is not reversible and that it results in near syncope or syncope.
  • Symptomatic Congenital Heart Disease. For symptomatic congenital heart disease, the SSA considers evidence from medical imaging or a heart catheter. They will look to see whether your hematocrit levels and O2 saturation meet with their criteria. You may also qualify if you have right to left shunting or if your systolic pressure is significantly elevated (70% of systemic or higher)

Even if you heart condition does not meet one of the Listings above, you may still qualify for disability benefits if your impairments have – or are expected to – put you out of work for one year or longer. The Social Security Administration will consider whether your conditions prevent you from returning to your past work or any other work available in the regional or national economy.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

Adult Listings for cardiovascular impairments: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/4.00-Cardiovascular-Adult.htm

Tips for heart health: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/prevention-15/heart-healthy/12-tips-for-better-heart-health ; https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-heart-tips ; https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/your-heart/keep-your-heart-healthy ; https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-healthy-diet/art-20047702 ; https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/10-small-steps-for-better-heart-health

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Can I Get Disability Benefits If My Impairments Are Psychiatric Only?

Posted January 29, 2021 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

The answer is, it depends. While you can collect disability for both physical and mental medical conditions, it can be harder to collect disability for a mental illness than for a physical illness. Why? Part of the answer to this lies in the nature of mental illness itself. Symptoms of mental illness are not easily evaluated, and the severity of a condition may therefore be hard to measure objectively. About a quarter of applicants for Social Security disability list mental illnesses or disorders as their primary impairment.

Disability claims examiners who work for Social Security are not licensed psychiatrists, and do not always understand the full scope of the limitations imposed by certain mental illnesses. For instance, some disability examiners do not recognize the cyclical nature of mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder (manic depression), and may assume a patient is cured because he or she does not currently display certain symptoms. But in reality, those symptoms may have just dissipated for the moment and could return in the near future.

In addition, some disability examiners may be biased against disability claims for mental illness. There are those who believe that some disability applicants who claim mental illness are lazy or malingering (faking their illness for benefits). This is unsettling since there are so many individuals who suffer from mental illness worldwide, but it is partially due to the fact that the criteria for evaluating most mental disorders is subjective. There are very few tests to evaluate the severity of an individual’s mental condition. Only mental conditions such as intellectual disorder (low IQ), memory impairments, or other neurocognitive disorders can be tested objectively (using IQ and memory impairment testing).

In attempting to evaluate a condition, a disability examiner will first refer to Social Security’s official listing of impairments, often referred to as the blue book. The disability listings contain medical conditions that Social Security recognizes as inherently disabling; in other words, Social Security accepts that anyone suffering from a listed condition would be unable to work (earning an amount equivalent to substantial gainful activity).

If your condition isn’t as severe as the listing requires but you have been diagnosed with a chronic mental condition that is preventing you from working, you may still be eligible for disability benefits. If your mental RFC (residual functional capacity) shows you have intellectual, social, or functional limitations that affect your productivity or your ability to sustain full-time work, you may be eligible for a medical-vocational allowance, depending on your mental limitations, age, education level, and job skills.

For psychiatric illnesses that may improve with treatment, such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia, the most important things that you can do to improve your chances of getting approved are to see a doctor regularly (preferably a psychiatrist or psychologist), to let your doctor know how your condition affects you on a daily basis, and to take the medicine that the doctor prescribes to you.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

SSA’s Psychiatric listings: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/12.00-MentalDisorders-Adult.htm

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Social Security Disability Benefits for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Posted January 22, 2021 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which the median nerve becomes compressed in or around the wrist area. This nerve runs from the forearm to the middle of the hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome can have symptoms that range from tingling, numbness, and pain in the wrist area as well as the fingers and thumb. In advanced cases, additional symptoms include difficulty gripping objects, pain all the way to the elbow, and deterioration of the muscle under the thumb.

Whether you qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits for your carpal tunnel system depends on several factors. To determine whether you meet their definition of being disabled, the Social Security Administration (SSA) relies on a variety of factors, including the severity of your symptoms, the effectiveness of treatment options, the strength of your medical evidence, your age, your education level and the type of work you have done. To be approved, your carpal tunnel syndrome must be medically determinable and supported with strong medical evidence. Medical evidence can include X-rays, electromyography tests, and nerve conduction studies.

The SSA employs a 5-step sequential evaluation process to determine if you qualify for disability benefits under the SSDI and/or SSI programs. At each phase of a disability claim, there is an adjudicator, or decision-maker. At the Initial Application and Reconsideration phases, the decision-maker is a DDS Examiner who works in consultation with a DDS Physician. At the Hearing phase, the decision-maker is the Administrative Law Judge who often consults with a Vocational and/or Medical Expert. These adjudicators consider both medical and non-medical evidence to determine if there is any work that you can do based on your physical and/or mental limitations.

Social Security disability claims based on carpal tunnel syndrome are never easy to get approved, but they can be approved if the claim is developed properly. If you or someone you know is unable to work due to carpal tunnel syndrome, or any other medical condition, please contact us for a free evaluation of your case!

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®