Facts about Hypertension 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. Hypertension is medical terminology for high blood pressure, a condition that can go for a long time unnoticed without physically apparent signs or symptoms and yet is easily detected through regular doctor's visits.
2. Blood pressure is the amount and resistance of blood going through your arteries. If your heart is pumping a lot of blood but your arteries are too narrow to pass the blood at a normal rate, then your blood pressure reading will be higher than normal.
3. High blood pressure is very common and develops slowly, so that almost everyone will develop high blood pressure at some point in their lives. Since symptoms typically do not occur until hypertension is advanced enough to cause serious complications, it is important to get regular readings throughout life.
4. Starting at age three, blood pressure should be monitored as part of annual check-ups until age 20, when it should be checked every two years.
5. Almost all cases of hypertension have no specific or apparent cause, but just develop over time as a person ages. A small percentage of cases are due to other medical conditions or drug use and abuse.
6. Conditions that may cause high blood pressure include kidney problems and heart defects. Medications that can lead to high blood pressure include oral contraceptives (birth control pills), cold medications and decongestants, pain relievers and a variety of prescription medications. Abuse of cocaine and amphetamines can also lead to hypertension.
7. You can lower your risk for hypertension by maintaining a healthy body wait and being physically active, avoiding tobacco and alcohol use, limiting salt intake, getting enough vitamins such as potassium and vitamin D, and controlling stress levels.
8. Those who are most at risk include early middle aged men, post-menopausal women, African Americans, and those with a family history of high blood pressure.
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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