Facts about High Cholesterol and Filing for Disability
These selected pages answer some of the most basic, but also some of the most important, questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim for disability benefits.
Facts about the condition
1) Cholesterol is needed by the body and is an important factor for many body functions. It can be found throughout the body naturally, but if too much is present, resulting in high cholesterol, it will be deposited into the arteries causing a variety of health issues, including heart disease.
2) Although cholesterol is found naturally in the body, diet is the main cause of high cholesterol. All foods containing animal fat, including cheese, milk, egg yolks and animal meats such as poultry, pork and beef, contain high cholesterol. Plant-based foods do not contain high cholesterol unless they are added from outside sources.
3) Since cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance, too much of it begins to remain stuck in the arteries, causing them to narrow and calcify. This can cause chest pain (angina) and atherosclerotic heart disease, the number one cause of death in the United States. A completely blocked artery can cause heart attack.
4) Since there are usually no symptoms to high cholesterol, blood tests to check your cholesterol are available. The best ones measure your low-density lipoproteins (LDL - bad cholesterol), high-density lipoproteins (HDL - good cholesterol), triglycerides, and your total cholesterol. It is recommended that adults get this test every five years so they can modify their diet, exercise routine, and stress levels to lower their cholesterol and stay healthy.
5) When checking cholesterol levels, the LDL should be around 100, while the HDL should be at least 40 or higher. An HDL of 60 or over protects against heart disease. The recommended total cholesterol level is 200 or lower for optimal cholesterol health.
6) The risk for high cholesterol grows higher with age, and is more common is women older than 55 and men younger than 55.
7) Although high cholesterol may be hereditary, that is not always the case. To lower cholesterol levels it is advised to lower the consumption of animal-based products, or remove them from the diet completely. It is also recommended to lose weight, engage in regular physical exercise, lower stress levels, and only drink moderate amounts of alcohol.
Qualifying for disability benefits with this condition
Whether or not you qualify for disability and, as a result, are approved for disability benefits will depend entirely on the information obtained from your medical records.
This includes whatever statements and treatment notes that may have been obtained from your treating physician (a doctor who has a history of treating your condition and is, therefore, qualified to comment as to your condition and prognosis). It also includes discharge summaries from hospital stays, reports of imaging studies (such as xrays, MRIs, and CT scans) and lab panels (i.e. bloodwork) as well as reports from physical therapy.
In many disability claims, it may also include the results of a report issued by an independent physician who examines you at the request of the Social Security Administration.
Qualifying for SSD or SSI benefits will also depend on the information obtained from your vocational, or work, history if you are an adult, or academic records if you are a minor-age child. In the case of adults, your work history information will allow a disability examiner (examiners make decisions at the initial claim and reconsideration appeal levels, but not at the hearing level where a judges decides the outcome of the case) to A) classify your past work, B) determine the physical and mental demands of your past work, C) decide if you can go back to a past job, and D) whether or not you have the ability to switch to some type of other work.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the social security administration does not award benefits based on simply having a condition, but, instead, will base an approval or denial on the extent to which a condition causes functional limitations. Functional limitations can be great enough to make work activity not possible (or, for a child, make it impossible to engage in age-appropriate activities).
Why are so many disability cases lost at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels?
There are several reasons but here are just two:
1) Social Security makes no attempt to obtain a statement from a claimant's treating physician. By contrast, at the hearing level, a claimant's disability attorney or disability representative will generally obtain and present this type of statement to a judge.
Note: it is not enough for a doctor to simply state that their patient is disabled. To satisy Social Security's requirements, the physician must list in what ways and to what extent the individual is functionally limited. For this reason, many representatives and attorneys request that the physician fill out and sign a specialized medical source statement that captures the correct information. Solid Supporting statements from physicians easily make the difference between winning or losing a disability case at the hearing level.
2) Prior to the hearing level, a claimant will not have the opportunity to explain how their condition limits them, nor will their attorney or representative have the opportunity to make a presentation based on the evidence of the case. This is because at the initial levels of the disability system, a disability examiner decides the case without meeting the claimant. The examiner may contact the claimant to gather information on activities of daily living and with regard to medical treatment or past jobs, but usually nothing more. At the hearing level, however, presenting an argument for approval based on medical evidence that has been obtained and submitted is exactly what happens.
About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.
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