February is “American Heart Month” and has been since Congress made it so in 1963. It seems an appropriate month to think about matters of the heart. But, valentines, bouquets of flower and boxes of chocolates have nothing to do with it. American Heart Month is all about promoting heart health.
The Grim Reality of Heart Disease
Unfortunately, statistics show that:
- More than 82 million Americans suffer from cardiovascular disease – that’s one in three people.
- Heart disease is the number one cause of death in men and women.
- 2,200 Americans die each day – one death every 39 seconds
- A coronary event for an American occurs every 25 seconds
More Americans Unable to Work Because of Heart Disease
Cardiovascular disease has become a major cause of disability in the United States resulting in more people unable to hold a job. To make up for lost income, they are seeking disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). And, for those who are critically disabled, there is an immediate need.
In fact, this past fall, SSA held a public hearing to determine if the most severe conditions of cardiovascular disease, including multiple organ transplants, should be added to SSA’s list of 88 conditions that qualify for Compassionate Allowance, which would fast-track severely ill people through an otherwise long and difficult disability determination process to get the financial safety net they are entitled to.
SSA’s Commissioner Michael J. Astrue said that “more than 95,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant and nearly 4,000 are added to the waiting list each month.” The hearing moves SSA “one step closer to ensuring quick and accurate disability decisions for those with the most severe conditions.”
Heart Disease and Social Security Disability Benefits
For the majority of applicants that are not compassionate allowance cases, the disability determination process can take as long as three years. That’s because SSA must be absolutely certain that someone’s medical condition is severe enough to keep them from working.
To be insured for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits you must have paid into Social Security through payroll taxes. However, to qualify you must:
- have a recent-enough work history
- be unable to earn above substantial gainful activity which is $1,000 a month
- expect to not be able to work for 12 months or longer
- be unable to work at any job
- find it difficult to function or complete daily tasks
- have a medical condition that meets SSA’s definition of disability
SSA has an extensive list of qualifying medical conditions that meets SSA’s disability standards that includes heart disease and other cardiovascular disabilities. But, even if you think you qualify, the process for getting approved for benefits is difficult. Nearly 65 percent of first-time applicants are denied, often requiring a lengthy appeal before a decision is reached by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at a hearing. At Freedom Disability, we are helping thousands of people with disabilities get approved every day. In fact, it is strongly advisable that no one consider tackling SSA’s tedious bureaucratic process on their own.
There is still no news as to the outcome of SSA’s cardiovascular disease hearing, but clearly, SSA’s efforts to broaden categories of conditions that qualify for Compassionate Allowance is a good step in the right direction.
Lifestyle Changes Can Help Prevent Heart Disease
In the meantime, Americans can take very simple steps to prevent heart disease from becoming a life-threatening disability. The American Heart Association advocates three basic things we all can do to improve our heart health:
- Stop smoking. Smoking raises blood pressure, causes blood clots, and is a major contributor to heart disease and stroke. Quit smoking today, and the risk of heart disease is minimized by half within a year. Believe it or not, after 10 years, the risk is gone.
- Eat healthy foods. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole-grains and low-fat dairy can help control weight and cholesterol. Just by lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) by 50 percent, the risk of heart disease is cut in half.
- Exercise every day. Staying physically active also improves cholesterol levels, lowers blood pressure, and keeps weight down. A thirty-minute walk every day helps strengthen the heart muscle.
Take it to heart. If you have a heart condition and can’t work, we can help you with the Social Security disability application process to get the benefits you need. If you are not a victim of cardiovascular disease, please, keep it that way.
Find out more about what you can do to promote heart health.