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Heart attacks and Social Security disability claims

A California resident who has suffered a heart attack may be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. However, the final answer isn't all that straightforward. The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers someone disabled if they are unable to work or obtain gainful employment for at least 12 months; or if they expect not to be able to do so for the next year for medical reasons.

While a heart attack is certainly a medical issue, it's not always enough to be considered for Social Security disability. A minor heart attack that causes little or no permanent damage, for example, isn't likely to be reason enough to approve a claim. However, if what's medically termed a myocardial infarction (MI) results in long-term physical limitations and reduces an applicant's residual functional capacity level -- the SSA's measure of someone's level of functionality -- the claim may be approved.

Physical limitations must also prohibit an individual from performing the same type of work they did before their heart attack. Because of the possibility of recovery from a heart attack due to the many advances in technology and newer approaches to care and treatment, an initial claim may be denied if the disability examiner isn't convinced health-related limitations are likely to be permanent or long lasting. Yet the same claim may later be won during an appeal that includes a disability hearing before a judge.

With help from an attorney, an applicant may be more likely to win an appeal hearing. If an initial appeal does not succeed, however, the lawyer can help a denied claimant prepare to file a third appeal, which is usually heard by the Social Security Appeals Council.

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