Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a chronic condition in which the heart cannot adequately pump (systolic) or fill (diastolic). While chronic heart failure can make it difficult to maintain full-time employment, the loss of income caused by an inability to work can be even more stressful. Social Security Disability benefits may be the solution where an individual who is suffering from chronic symptoms of heart failure is unable to work.
Social Security’s Blue Book addresses CHF at Listing 4.02. To qualify for benefits under the listing, you must have medically documented proof of severe systolic failure or diastolic failure during a period of stability, and one of the following: inability to perform on an exercise tolerance test at a workload equivalent to 5 METs or less; three or more separate documented episodes of acute congestive heart failure within a 12-month period; or persistent symptoms of heart failure that seriously limit activities of daily living.
Symptoms of CHF include shortness of breath, heart palpitations, fatigue, dizziness, and weakness, especially with exertion. The New York Heart Association (NYHA) identifies four functional classifications for CHF. Class I patients have no physical limitations and only mild symptoms from ordinary physical activity. Class II patients have moderate limitations and are comfortable at rest, though ordinary physical activity results in symptoms. Class III patients have marked limitations, as less than ordinary physical activity causes symptoms. Class IV patients have severe limitations and experience symptoms even while resting. Although Social Security Administration (SSA) has revised their rules to exclude NYHA classifications in their criteria for finding disability, SSA is still more likely to find Class III and IV patients unable to work due to the severity of their symptoms. Notwithstanding, any diagnosis that has more than a minimal impact can result in a finding of disability when combined with other medical impairments.