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Columbia MO Social Security Disability Law Blog

Obtaining SSDI benefits for heart disease

Heart disease afflicts many Missourians and interferes with their ability to carry out the functions and duties of their jobs. In many cases, heart disease can provide the basis for an award of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. This post will provide an overview of the various kinds of heart disease that may establish the basis for a successful SSD claim.

The SSA includes all forms of heart disease under the term "cardiovascular impairment." A cardiovascular impairment is any disorder that affects the proper functioning of the circulatory system, including arteries, veins, capillaries and lymphatic drainage). Cardiovascular impairment is the result of one or more kinds of heart disease: chronic heart failure, pain caused by myocardial ischemia (blockage of the arteries of the heart), syncope (an obstruction of blood flow or disturbance in the heart's rhythm) and reduced oxygen concentration in the blood. Cardiovascular impairment also includes disorders of the veins or arteries such as obstruction, rupture or aneurysm.

What kind of medical evidence is required for SSDI benefits?

Most Missourians seeking Social Security Disability Insurance benefits understand that they must support their claim with medical evidence showing that they are disabled. However, very few potential SSDI applicants understand the precise nature of the medical evidence that is required to prove the existence of a qualifying disability. This post will summarize the requirements of the federal regulations that govern disability benefits.

Each type of illness or injury will, of course, require different kinds of medical evidence. An x-ray may be required to prove a bone abnormality, while a blood test may be required to show that the claimant has a disease such as leukemia. Nevertheless, the types of medical evidence have many common features. SSA regulations require that medical evidence be provided by an "acceptable medical source." These sources include physicians, psychologists, optometrists, podiatrists and speech-language pathologists. Each specialist must be licensed or otherwise qualified in his or her specialty.

SSDI benefits for panic attacks

Many Missourians suffer from a mental disorder commonly referred to as "panic attacks." Panic attacks are acute episodes of anxiety that are brought on when the patient faces a particular object or situation. If the level of anxiety is sufficiently severe, the person will be unable to function in a work environment. This post will explain how repeated panic attacks can be the basis for a successful SSD claim for benefits.

Panic attacks are considered to be one of several anxiety-related disorders for which SSD benefits may be awarded. In these disorders, anxiety is either the predominant symptom or is the result of attempts to confront and master the cause of the disorder. A benefits claimant must produce medically documented findings showing one of the following: generalized persistent anxiety; persistent irrational fear of a specific object, activity or situation and a compelling desire to avoid the object, situation or activity; recurrent severe panic attacks resulting in sudden unpredictable onset of intense apprehension, fear or terror at least once per weak; recurrent obsessions or compulsions; or recurrent and intrusive recollections of a traumatic experience.

How are claims for SSD benefits evaluated?

Most Missourians know that the process for obtaining Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits is run by the Social Security Administration, an agency of the federal government. Unfortunately, the sheer size of the SSA tends to obscure the process that is used to review and approve or deny applications for SSD claims. This post will describe the essential features of that process.

All applications for disability insurance benefits must be filed in writing or on line. The application is first reviewed by an SSA field office to determine if the applicant is financially eligible. The second stage is a review of the applicant's disability. If an application passes steps one and two, the file is next reviewed to determine whether the applicant's mental or physical condition satisfies the SSA's written criteria for disability, called the Listing of Impairments. If an applicant's medical condition satisfies one of the items on the Listing of Impairments, the application is usually approved and benefits are awarded based upon the applicant's financial situation.

How do workers' compensation benefits affect SSD benefits?

Many injured workers in Missouri wonder about how a claim for workers' compensation benefits might affect their chances of obtaining Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. This post will review the ways in which these two programs relate to one another.

The first major difference is the fact that SSD claims are administered by the Social Security Administration, an agency of the federal government, and workers' compensation benefits are administered by the states. In Missouri, the administering agency is the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, Division of Workers' Compensation. The second major difference is the threshold for receiving benefits. Under the SSD regulations, a person must be totally disabled for a period of one year or more in order to receive benefits. Under Missouri's workers' compensation statute, a worker can receive benefits immediately upon being injured, and benefits can be awarded for partial and disabling conditions. Under both programs, benefits cease if the disabling injury or illness decreases in severity and allows the benefits recipient to return to work. Under federal regulations, the injury or medical condition need not have been cause by the disabled person's job; under the workers' compensation program, the illness or injury must be related to the claimant's work.

Understanding SSI benefits

Many people in Missouri who apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are only vaguely aware of another program that can provide significant assistance to persons with very low incomes: Supplemental Security Income. In this post, we will outline the eligibility requirements for a successful SSI claim and summarize the benefits of a successful claim.

SSI benefits are available to persons who are: age 65 or older, blind, or disabled. Blind persons seeking SSI benefits must satisfy the Social Security Disability requirements for blindness, and those seeking SSI benefits based upon income must satisfy the following requirements. Eligibility for SSI benefits is determined by totaling a person's monthly income (or a couple's monthly income, if they apply as a couple), subtracting amounts that are not "countable" under SSA regulations, and subtracting the total, called "countable income," from the "Federal benefit amount," which is $733. If the applicant's available income is more than $733 per month, he or she is not eligible for SSI benefits. If countable income is less than $733 per month, the applicant will receive benefits equal to the difference.

Understanding the disability application and appeals processes

Social Security disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are important for many disabled individuals but the process can be complex. Helping to understand the process, however, can make it less intimidating which can be important for many disabled individuals and families approaching the SSD and SSI application process. SSD claims, and how they work, are important to understand.

Understanding the different parts of the SSD and SSI application and appeals process can be helpful for many applicants and their families. Step-by-step guidance can also be useful and the process can sometimes seem complicated, confusing and challenging. Being familiar with the process, however, can help. Applicants must first fill out an initial application and it is helpful to provide complete, thorough and solid medical evidence supporting the claim for benefits that has been carefully prepared.

Obtaining SSD benefits for blindness

As many Missourians have learned, determining whether a particular illness or injury qualifies a person for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits can often be difficult. One exception to this generalization is blindness, or limited vision. If a person submits an SSD claim predicated on blindness or limited visual acuity, and if the person's visual test results meet the SSA requirements, the person immediately qualifies for SSD benefits.

The Social Security Act defines blindness as either loss of visual acuity or a reduced field of vision. To qualify for disability benefits based on statutory blindness, one of the two conditions must be satisfied.

Social Security disability benefits for heart disease

Heart disease is a general term that includes many different conditions. As most Missourians realize, chronic heart disease can interfere with many functions, including a person's ability to work. In this post, we will summarize the Social Security regulations that govern Social Security Disability claims for different kinds of heart disease.

Heart disease includes coronary artery disease, heart rhythm problems, and heart defects that interfere with the heart's ability to pump blood through the arteries and veins. The Social Security Administration uses the term "cardiovascular impairment" as its catch-all term for these diseases and impairments. A person seeking disability benefits for a cardiovascular impairment must first provide a statement from a qualified medical consultant that the impairment is both persistent and recurrent. A persistent condition is one that has been present or is expected to be present for a continuous period of 12 months or more. A recurrent condition is one that appears at least three times during the 12-month period. The SSA relies heavily on tests that measure heart function, such as electrocardiograms (ECG) and stress tests.

Bipolar Disorder and SSDI benefits

The mental condition known as bipolar disorder - formerly called manic depression - afflicts many people in Missouri and elsewhere. The symptoms - alternating moods of severe depression and euphoria - can often be controlled with medication, but severe cases do not always respond to drugs. If the disorder is not effectively controlled, it can severely interfere with a person's relationships and ability to work. In this post, we will review the aspects of bipolar disorder that may allow a person to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

The Social Security Administration categorizes bipolar disorder as an affective disorder characterized by "a disturbance of mood accompanied by a full or partial manic or depressive syndrome." The condition must affect the person's "whole psychic life" and involve either elation or depression. The SSA regulations define the required level of intensity for the disorder. It must be medically documented as persistent, either continuously or intermittently, and must involve a depressive syndrome, a manic syndrome, or a bipolar history including both manic and depressive episodes.

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