Are you receiving Social Security benefits?*
Has applicant been, or expect to be, out of full-time work for at least 12 months (earning under $980 in payroll checks per month)?*
Have you retained an attorney for your social security claim?*

Important Facts

  • What if I can't afford the medical care to get the medical documentation that I need for the social security administration? Usually there are other providers in the community that offer care at a reduced price or free...
    Important Fact
  • What if I can't afford the medical care to get the medical documentation that I need for the social security administration? Usually there are other providers in the community that offer care at a reduced price or free...
    Important Fact 2
  • Do I have to wait 1 year to apply for SSI/SSDI? No you should apply as soon as you become disabled if your condition is expected to last 1 year or more or it is expected to result in death...
    Important Fact 4
  • I missed the 60 day appeal deadline, do I have to start all over again? Not necessarily, if you can show that you had a good reason for missing your appeal deadline, such as being hospitalized...
    Important Fact 3
  • Do I have to wait 1 year to apply for SSI/SSDI? No you should apply as soon as you become disabled if your condition is expected to last 1 year or more or it is expected to result in death. ...
    Important Fact
  • What if I can't afford the medical care to get the medical documentation that I need for the social security administration? Usually there are other providers in the community that offer care at a reduced price or free...
    Important Fact

Cardiovascular System

4.01 Category of Impairments, Cardiovascular System
4.02 Chronic heart failure
4.04 Ischemic heart disease
4.05 Recurrent arrhythmias
4.06 Symptomatic congenital heart disease
4.09 Heart transplant
4.10 Aneurysm of aorta or major branches
4.11 Chronic venous insufficiency
4.12 Peripheral arterial disease

A. General

1. What do we mean by a cardiovascular impairment?
a. We mean any disorder that affects the proper functioning of the heart or the circulatory system (that is, arteries, veins, capillaries, and the lymphatic drainage). The disorder can be congenital or acquired.
b. Cardiovascular impairment results from one or more of four consequences of heart disease:
(i) Chronic heart failure or ventricular dysfunction.
(ii) Discomfort or pain due to myocardial ischemia, with or without necrosis of heart muscle.
(iii) Syncope, or near syncope, due to inadequate cerebral perfusion from any cardiac cause, such as obstruction of flow or disturbance in rhythm or conduction resulting in inadequate cardiac output.
(iv) Central cyanosis due to right-to-left shunt, reduced oxygen concentration in the arterial blood, or pulmonary vascular disease.
c. Disorders of the veins or arteries (for example, obstruction, rupture, or aneurysm) may cause impairments of the lower extremities (peripheral vascular disease), the central nervous system, the eyes, the kidneys, and other organs. We will evaluate peripheral vascular disease under 4.11 or 4.12 and impairments of another body system(s) under the listings for that body system(s).

2. What do we consider in evaluating cardiovascular impairments?

The listings in this section describe cardiovascular impairments based on symptoms, signs, laboratory findings, response to a regimen of prescribed treatment, and functional limitations.

3. What do the following terms or phrases mean in these listings?

a. Medical consultant is an individual defined in §§404.1616(a) and 416.1016(a). This term does not include medical sources who provide consultative examinations for us. We use the abbreviation “MC” throughout this section to designate a medical consultant.

b. Persistent means that the longitudinal clinical record shows that, with few exceptions, the required finding(s) has been present, or is expected to be present, for a continuous period of at least 12 months, such that a pattern of continuing severity is established.

c. Recurrent means that the longitudinal clinical record shows that, within a consecutive 12-month period, the finding(s) occurs at least three times, with intervening periods of improvement of sufficient duration that it is clear that separate events are involved.

d. Appropriate medically acceptable imaging means that the technique used is the proper one to evaluate and diagnose the impairment and is commonly recognized as accurate for assessing the cited finding.

e. A consecutive 12-month period means a period of 12 consecutive months, all or part of which must occur within the period we are considering in connection with an application or continuing disability review.

f. Uncontrolled means the impairment does not adequately respond to standard prescribed medical treatment.

B. Documenting Cardiovascular Impairment

1. What basic documentation do we need? We need sufficiently detailed reports of history, physical examinations, laboratory studies, and any prescribed treatment and response to allow us to assess the severity and duration of your cardiovascular impairment. A longitudinal clinical record covering a period of not less than 3 months of observations and treatment is usually necessary unless we can make a determination or decision based on the current evidence.

2. Why is a longitudinal clinical record important? We will usually need a longitudinal clinical record to assess the severity and expected duration of your impairment(s). If you have a listing-level impairment, you probably will have received medically prescribed treatment. Whenever there is evidence of such treatment, your longitudinal clinical record should include a description of the ongoing management and evaluation provided by your treating or other medical sources. It should also include your response to this medical management, as well as information about the nature and severity of your impairment. The record will provide us with information on your functional status over an extended period of time and show whether your ability to function is improving, worsening, or unchanging.

3. What if you have not received ongoing medical treatment?

a. You may not have received ongoing treatment or have an ongoing relationship with the medical community despite the existence of a severe impairment(s). In this situation, we will base our evaluation on the current objective medical evidence and the other evidence we have. If you do not receive treatment, you cannot show an impairment that meets the criteria of most of these listings. However, we may find you disabled because you have another impairment(s) that in combination with your cardiovascular impairment medically equals the severity of a listed impairment or based on consideration of your residual functional capacity and age, education, and work experience.

b. Unless we can decide your claim favorably on the basis of the current evidence, a longitudinal record is still important. In rare instances where there is no or insufficient longitudinal evidence, we may purchase a consultative examination(s) to help us establish the severity and duration of your impairment.

4. When will we wait before we ask for more evidence?

a. We will wait when we have information showing that your impairment is not yet stable and the expected change in your impairment might affect our determination or decision. In these situations, we need to wait to properly evaluate the severity and duration of your impairment during a stable period. Examples of when we might wait are:

(i) If you have had a recent acute event; for example, a myocardial infarction (heart attack).
(ii) If you have recently had a corrective cardiac procedure; for example, coronary artery bypass grafting.
(iii) If you have started new drug therapy and your response to this treatment has not yet been established; for example, beta-blocker therapy for dilated congestive cardiomyopathy.

b. In these situations, we will obtain more evidence 3 months following the event before we evaluate your impairment. However, we will not wait if we have enough information to make a determination or decision based on all of the relevant evidence in your case.

5. Will we purchase any studies? In appropriate situations, we will purchase studies necessary to substantiate the diagnosis or to document the severity of your impairment, generally after we have evaluated the medical and other evidence we already have. We will not purchase studies involving exercise testing if there is significant risk involved or if there is another medical reason not to perform the test. We will follow sections 4.00C6, 4.00C7, and 4.00C8 when we decide whether to purchase exercise testing.

6. What studies will we not purchase? We will not purchase any studies involving cardiac catheterization, such as coronary angiography, arteriograms, or electrophysiological studies. However, if the results of catheterization are part of the existing evidence we have, we will consider them together with the other relevant evidence. See 4.00C15a.

C. Using Cardiovascular Test Results

1. What is an ECG?

a. ECG stands for electrocardiograph or electrocardiogram. An electrocardiograph is a machine that records electrical impulses of your heart on a strip of paper called an electrocardiogram or a tracing. To record the ECG, a technician positions a number of small contacts (or leads) on your arms, legs, and across your chest to connect them to the ECG machine. An ECG may be done while you are resting or exercising.

b. The ECG tracing may indicate that you have a heart abnormality. It may indicate that your heart muscle is not getting as much oxygen as it needs (ischemia), that your heart rhythm is abnormal (arrhythmia), or that there are other abnormalities of your heart, such as left ventricular enlargement.

2. How do we evaluate ECG evidence? We consider a number of factors when we evaluate ECG evidence:

a. An original or legible copy of the 12-lead ECG obtained at rest must be appropriately dated and labeled, with the standardization inscribed on the tracing. Alteration in standardization of specific leads (such as to accommodate large QRS amplitudes) must be identified on those leads.

(i) Detailed descriptions or computer-averaged signals without original or legible copies of the ECG as described in listing 4.00C2a are not acceptable.
(ii) The effects of drugs or electrolyte abnormalities must be considered as possible noncardiac causes of ECG abnormalities of ventricular repolarization; that is, those involving the ST segment and T wave. If available, the predrug (especially digitalis glycosides) ECG should be submitted.

b. ECGs obtained in conjunction with treadmill, bicycle, or arm exercise tests should meet the following specifications:
(i) ECG reports must include the original calibrated ECG tracings or a legible copy.
(ii) A 12-lead baseline ECG must be recorded in the upright position before exercise.
(iii) A 12-lead ECG should be recorded at the end of each minute of exercise.
(iv) If ECG documentation of the effects of hyperventilation is obtained, the exercise test should be deferred for at least 10 minutes because metabolic changes of hyperventilation may alter the physiologic and ECG-recorded response to exercise.
(v) Post-exercise ECGs should be recorded using a generally accepted protocol consistent with the prevailing state of medical knowledge and clinical practice.
(vi) All resting, exercise, and recovery ECG strips must have the standardization inscribed on the tracing. The ECG strips should be labeled to indicate the date, the times recorded and the relationship to the stage of the exercise protocol. The speed and grade (treadmill test) or work rate (bicycle or arm ergometric test) should be recorded. The highest level of exercise achieved, heart rate and blood pressure levels during testing, and the reason(s) for terminating the test (including limiting signs or symptoms) must be recorded.

3. What are exercise tests and what are they used for?

a. Exercise tests have you perform physical activity and record how your cardiovascular system responds. Exercise tests usually involve walking on a treadmill, but other forms of exercise, such as an exercise bicycle or an arm exercise machine, may be used. Exercise testing may be done for various reasons; such as to evaluate the severity of your coronary artery disease or peripheral vascular disease or to evaluate your progress after a cardiac procedure or an acute event, like a myocardial infarction (heart attack). Exercise testing is the most widely used testing for identifying the presence of myocardial ischemia and for estimating maximal aerobic capacity (usually expressed in METs – metabolic equivalents) if you have heart disease.

b. We include exercise tolerance test (ETT) criteria in 4.02B3 (chronic heart failure) and 4.04A (ischemic heart disease). To meet the ETT criteria in these listings, the ETT must be a sign- or symptom-limited test in which you exercise while connected to an ECG until you develop a sign or symptom that indicates that you have exercised as much as is considered safe for you.

c. In 4.12B, we also refer to exercise testing for peripheral vascular disease. In this test, you walk on a treadmill, usually for a specified period of time, and the individual who administers the test measures the effect of exercise on the flow of blood in your legs, usually by using ultrasound. The test is also called an exercise Doppler test. Even though this test is intended to evaluate peripheral vascular disease, it will be stopped for your safety if you develop abnormal signs or symptoms because of heart disease.

d. Each type of test is done in a certain way following specific criteria, called a protocol. For our program, we also specify certain aspects of how any exercise test we purchase is to be done. See 4.00C10 and 4.00C17.

4. Do ETTs have limitations? An ETT provides an estimate of aerobic capacity for walking on a grade, bicycling, or moving one’s arms in an environmentally controlled setting. Therefore, ETT results do not correlate with the ability to perform other types of exertional activities, such as lifting and carrying heavy loads, and do not provide an estimate of the ability to perform activities required for work in all possible work environments or throughout a workday. Also, certain medications (such as beta blockers) and conduction disorders (such as left or right bundle branch blocks) can cause false-negative or false-positive results. Therefore, we must consider the results of an ETT together with all the other relevant evidence in your case record.

5. How does an ETT with measurement of maximal or peak oxygen uptake (VO2) differ from other ETTs? Occasionally, medical evidence will include the results of an ETT with VO2. While ETTs without measurement of VO2 provide only an estimate of aerobic capacity, measured maximal or peak oxygen uptake provides an accurate measurement of aerobic capacity, which is often expressed in METs (metabolic equivalents). The MET level may not be indicated in the report of attained maximal or peak VO2 testing, but can be calculated as follows: 1 MET = 3.5 milliliters (ml) of oxygen uptake per kilogram (kg) of body weight per minute. For example, a 70 kg (154 lb.) individual who achieves a maximal or peak VO2 of 1225 ml in 1 minute has attained

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