Facts about Wolff-Parkinson-White 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. Wolff-Parkinson-White, or WPW, syndrome is a congenital heart condition. Those with WPW syndrome are born with this condition, in which the heart contains an additional electrical pathway. Electrical pathways in the heart are the mechanism that controls heart beat. Having this extra pathway leads to tachycardia, a condition of very fast heartbeat.
2. Tachycardia, the primary symptom of WPW syndrome, typically begins when the affected individual reaches his or her teens or early 20s. However, infants and young children with WPW syndrome have been known to show fast heartbeat as well.
3. Other symptoms of WPW syndrome are related to the effects of tachycardia. These include heart palpitations, feeling dizzy or light headed and fainting, tiring easily, and anxiety.
4. Infants have different symptoms. Infants may show difficulty breathing (shortness of breath), may not eat enough, may be inactive or not alert. In some cases, fast heartbeat can be seen on the baby's chest.
5. An individual is more likely to have Wolff-Parkinson-White pattern, a similar condition in which an extra electrical pathway is present but there are no symptoms.
6. Most people with WPW syndrome take medication to control symptoms and experience no problems. However, some people may experience complications, particularly if WPW syndrome goes untreated. WPW syndrome can potentially cause low blood pressure, fainting, heart failure and even sudden death.
7. Treatment of WPW syndrome focuses on controlling episodes of fast heart rate, or preventing them altogether. This is achieved through movement, oral medication and sometimes surgical procedures.
8. Caffeine, tobacco, alcohol and the decongestant medication pseudoephedrine all increase heart rate, so it is good for those with WPW syndrome to avoid these.
9. A number of famous people, including sports players, have publicized the fact that they have WPW syndrome. These people demonstrate that with proper treatment, those WPW syndrome can live lives that are more active than the average person.
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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