High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is defined as consistently having a blood pressure reading where either number is higher than 140/90. A normal blood pressure reading is under 120/80, and a blood pressure reading that falls between the two ranges is defined as pre-hypertension.
Hypertension affects a large number of Americans. In many cases, there is no clearly identified cause – this is called essential hypertension. Some cases of high blood pressure are considered secondary hypertension because they are the result of another medical condition, such as kidney disease or adrenal gland disorders.
In many cases, those with hypertension display no symptoms. High blood pressure is often discovered during a regular check-up or while seeking treatment for another reason. Doctors will usually obtain several blood pressure readings at various times of day before diagnosing hypertension.
Treatment for hypertension first includes lifestyle measures such as exercise, weight loss, and eating a healthier diet. Medications can also be used to treat hypertension.
If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, you may have difficulty with some tasks, or restrictions from your doctor that prevent you from doing some activities, and feel you are unable to work. However, with the improved treatment for high blood pressure, Social Security is less likely today to approve you for disability benefits for high blood pressure alone. As many people with high blood pressure exhibit few symptoms, the SSA will want to see evidence demonstrating how your high blood pressure negatively affects your ability to work.
Over the years, high blood pressure can cause damage to the heart, eyes, kidneys, or brain. If you have organ damage, you may be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits based on that damage and the resulting limitations (if this is your situation, visit the above links for more information). Or, if you have secondary hypertension, you may be able to qualify for disability based on the medical condition that caused the high blood pressure, such as kidney disease or adrenal gland disorders.
The important thing to remember when you’re applying for disability benefits due to high blood pressure or resulting damage is that, when evaluating your claim, the SSA is most concerned with the symptoms you experience and the way they limit your daily activities. To be approved for disability benefits due to hypertension, you’ll need to demonstrate to the Social Security Administration (SSA) that, because of your limitations, you are unable to work in any type of job on a consistent basis.
After you apply for disability, a claims examiner at your state’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) office will review your application and request copies of your medical records from your medical providers. He or she will review these records, and in conjunction with a medical professional, assign you a “Residual Functional Capacity” (RFC) based on your limitations. An RFC (such as light or heavy) is the highest type of work that you are able to perform. Your claims examiner will then use your RFC, in conjunction with your age, education level, and previous work experience, to classify you as either disabled or not disabled. (See our article on when your RFC makes you disabled).
In addition to the above medical requirements, if you are applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) due to hypertension and other medical conditions, you will have to provide information regarding your income and assets. SSI is a needs-based program, and recipients must fall under specific limits in these areas. For more information, see our article on SSI eligibility.
There are multiple ways to apply for Social Security disability benefits. You can apply at your local Social Security Administration office, via telephone at 888-772-1213, or online at www.ssa.gov (for SSDI only).
Regardless of how you apply, you will need detailed information regarding your medical conditions and treatments to complete the application. Although the claims adjudicator will request their own medical records, you can also submit any records that you have in your possession.
While a hypertension diagnosis alone will not qualify you for benefits, no matter how high your blood pressure is, your medical records should reflect this diagnosis. Additionally, your disability claim file should include the following:
After you file a disability application, you will be notified of your claims examiner’s name and phone number via mail. You may receive other paperwork to complete, and you could also be called for a telephone interview or sent to a medical examination at the SSA’s expense.
Once a decision has been made on your claim, which usually takes 3-4 months, you will be notified via mail. It is not unheard of for it to take much longer for this decision to come, but you can check with your claims examiner with any questions.
Should your Social Security disability claim be denied, you will be able to appeal the decision by filing a Request for Reconsideration. If your reconsideration is denied, you'll be able to request a hearing (except in the New York disability system and a few other states, where your first level of appeal is a disability hearing.)