Having a heart attack doesn't mean that you'll automatically qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Many people who've had heart attacks go on to live productive and healthy lives for many years.
To be approved for benefits on the basis of a heart condition, you generally have to "meet or equal" the requirements of a Social Security listing. (For those not familiar with this term, Social Security uses an impairment listing manual that provides the requirements for being approved for a specific impairment. For more information on the listing that would apply to heart attacks, see our article on the disability listing for coronary artery disease.)
Meeting the listing for coronary artery disease can be extraordinarily difficult. Even doctors and disability claims examiners who decide claims for the Social Security Administration have remarked that, when it comes to heart disease, Social Security nearly expects you to be dead before they're willing to approve you.
Not surprisingly, Social Security's hard-line position on heart disease cases often comes as a shock to claimants to who have just recently had a heart attack and/or coronary artery bypass graft surgery.
If you've had a heart attack, Social Security will typically prefer to wait three months before deciding your claim. This is for the purpose of waiting to see to what extent your condition will limit you afterwards. In most instances, the SSA will tend to not consider a single heart attack and a single bypass graft as particularly disabling. For this reason, if you're filing for disability on the basis of coronary heart disease, you would probably benefit from hiring a disability lawyer to help you win your claim.
By: Tim Moore, former disability claims examiner for Social Security