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Applying for disability with Congestive Heart Failure, CHF
Basic requirements for disability claims
If you are applying for Social Security disability on the basis of chronic heart failure (this is the term SSA uses when they are speaking of congestive heart failure), you must meet two basic requirements.
1. You cannot be working and earning over the SGA monthly earnings limit.
2. You have to have a severe mental or physical condition that can be verified through medical evidence.
Filing for disability with Chronic or Congestive Heart failure
In order to establish that you have chronic heart failure you must have a medical history and physical examination that show characteristic symptoms such as pulmonary or systemic congestion or limited cardiac output. Signs of limited cardiac output may include shortness of breath, tiredness, chest discomfort, dizziness, or fainting. Signs of congestion might include liver enlargement, ascites, increased jugular venous distention or pressure, fluid retention and swelling in the legs and ankles, and rapid weight gain.
The two main causes of CHF are systolic dysfunction, which is due to the pump function of the heart failing, or due to diastolic dysfunction, which is caused by a stiff ventricle wall that is not relaxing properly. In the case of diastolic dysfunction the result is a low stroke volume. CHF is considered in the cardiac impairment listing as a single category whether due to cardiomegaly, congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis (narrowing of arteries), hypertension, rheumatic, congenital, or other heart disease.
Impairment listing 4.02 Chronic Heart Failure provides the criteria needed to meet or equal the severity requirements for Social Security disability.
A. You must have a medically documented presence of one of the following: Systolic failure with left end diastolic dimensions of 6.0 cm or an ejection fraction of 30% or less during a stable period not an acute heart incident. Or, diastolic failure with left ventricular posterior wall thickening of 2.5 cm or greater and an enlarged atrium of 4.5 or greater with a normal or elevated ejection fraction. AND
Social Security disability is more about your functional ability, or rather your residual functional ability (what you are able to do in spite of your disabling condition) than your specific medical condition. Therefore it is extremely important to have clear documentation of your limitations. This can be accomplished through medical records , of course, but also through Functional reports completed by your treating physician, activity of daily living questionnaires and third party questionnaires (generally completed by a third party meaning someone besides doctor or yourself).
More about the condition
Congestive heart failure (CHF), also known as congestive cardiac failure (CCF) or simply heart failure, happens when the heart is unable to pump a healthy flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout the rest of the body. Although the name implies that the heart has failed or stopped, this is not actually the case; the heart continues beating and there is no chest pain associated with congestive heart failure. Instead, the blood flowing out of the heart is simply slowed down.
Congestive heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalization in those over 65 and can happen for a myriad of reasons, from heart defects, infection in the valves or lungs, high blood pressure or thyroid disease to narrowed arteries, disease of the heart muscle or valve, chronic anemia, coronary artery disease or scar tissue left from a past heart attack. Whatever the initial cause, the heart muscle becomes damaged and blood flow slows.
The cause of congestive heart failure is due to either systolic dysfunction, which is due to the pump function of the heart failing, or due to diastolic dysfunction, which is caused by a stiff ventricle wall that is not relaxing properly. In the case of diastolic dysfunction the result is a low stroke volume.
Signs of congestive heart failure are dependent upon which side of the heart is affected and can range from a shortness of breath, tiredness and poor circulation to dizziness and weight gain caused by fluid retention and swelling in the legs and ankles. To clinically diagnose congestive heart failure an ultrasound may be used to determine the amount of blood that is being pumped with each heartbeat, an X-ray may be used to detect the size of the heart, an electrocardiogram may be used to determine abnormalities or blood tests may be performed to show infection.
If congestive heart failure is diagnosed, doctors will normally suggest rest, a healthy diet, weight loss and less sodium and water intake. Depending upon the cause of congestive heart failure, they may also prescribe various drugs such as beta blockers, diuretics, vasodilators, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or digitalis. In some cases a valve may need replaced and if congestive heart failure is allowed to go unchecked and causes irreparable damage to the heart, it may result in a heart transplant.
Return to: Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions
Related Body System Impairments:
If you have had a heart attack will you qualify for Social Security disability?
Angina and Filing for Disability
Arrhythmia and Filing for Disability
Brain Aneurysm and Filing for Disability
Cardiomyopathy and Filing for Disability
Cardiovascular Heart Stenosis and Filing for Disability
Congenital Heart Defects and Filing for Disability
Congestive Heart Failure and Filing for Disability
DVT Deep Venous Thrombosis and Filing for Disability
Heart Attack and Filing for Disability
Heart Murmur and Filing for Disability
High Cholesterol and Filing for Disability
Lymphedema and Filing for Disability
Mitral Valve Prolapse and Filing for Disability
Peripheral Arterial Disease and Filing for Disability
Triple Bypass Surgery and Filing for Disability
Thrombosis and Filing for Disability
Tachycardia and Filing for Disability
Wolff-Parkinson-White and Filing for Disability
Congestive Heart Failure, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits
Heart Attack, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits
Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:
Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI
These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.
Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria