Heart transplants do not come without risk and may cause additional impairments to the body. When the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates heart transplants recipients, they will consider the amount of time since your transplant and any impairments that continue after the transplant.
To understand how the SSA evaluates heart transplant recipients, you must know the type of complications that may arise after heart transplants. Those who have had a heart transplant have the following risks.
Once a heart transplant is completed, it is possible that the donor heart will not work properly. There are two main reasons for a donor heart not to work properly.
Rejection of the organ is the biggest concern with any transplant. It occurs when the body attacks the new organ because it sees it as a foreign object and threat to the body. There are three types of rejection.
Medications that prevent your body from rejecting the donor heart are essential after a transplant and are needed for the rest of your life. However, they can cause significant effects on the body. Those who are on anti-rejection medications are at increased risk for the following due to the anti-rejection medication.
After a heart transplant, there are lifelong treatments that need to be followed in order to insure that the donor organ is not rejected. These treatments include taking multiple medications on a strict schedule, attending follow up visits with your doctors, carefully monitoring your health for signs of organ rejection, and living a heart-healthy life style. If the necessary treatments are not followed, you risk rejection of the donor heart or other impairments to the heart.
If your body rejects the donor heart, the SSA will evaluate your impairments under the Compassionate Allowance program, which is a process that allows your disability determination to be made within a matter of days. Alternatively, if you are put on the wait list to receive another heart transplant, you will also qualify for a Compassionate Allowance.
If your impairments progress due to rejection or failure of the heart transplant and your impairments are expected to cause death within six months, you will be eligible for Presumptive Disability, which allows individuals to receive SSI disability benefits while they wait for disability determinations to be made.
In evaluating your level of impairment after a heart transplant, the SSA will refer to Listing 4.09, Heart Transplant, in the Social Security "Blue Book," which outlines impairments that will automatically qualify for disability benefits.
All heart transplant recipients are automatically deemed disabled for one year following the transplant surgery.