I had a heart transplant a year ago or longer, and I still can’t work. Do I qualify for Social Security disability benefits?

Beating Heart in the Chest CavityGetting a heart transplant is a significant procedure. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes how important it is that you make a full recovery, which is why it automatically approves heart transplant recipients to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for the first year.

If you still can’t work after one-year post-surgery, then you may reapply for Social Security disability benefits. This time, however, there is not a specific heart transplant listing in the Listing of Impairments that applies to you. Instead, you will need to prove that you qualify for benefits pursuant to a different section of the Listing of Impairments or that you can’t work because of the severity of your disability.

Heart Transplant Complications

Complications may occur if your body rejects the new heart, if the new heart fails, or if you experience significant side effects from transplant medications. While some of these complications are acute and happen soon after heart transplant surgery, other complications occur over time. Even at one-year post-transplant, you are still at risk.

Some of these complications are so severe and common that they are included in the Listing of Impairments. For example, you could experience:

  • Coronary artery disease (Listing 4.04). Coronary artery disease, also known as ischemic heart disease, occurs when blood flow to the heart is reduced because of narrowed arteries. Not everyone with coronary artery disease qualifies for benefits, but if you meet the qualifications of Listing 4.04, then you will qualify for benefits.
  • Heart failure (Listing 4.02). If you are diagnosed with chronic heart failure, you are on medication, and you meet the severity requirements included in the listing, then you qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
  • Heart Arrhythmia (Listing 4.05). You may be eligible for Social Security disability if you have recurrent arrhythmias that occur despite treatment and meet the severity requirement of the listing.
  • Kidney Damage (Listing 6.00). Heart transplant medications can damage your kidneys. If you experience a kidney condition that falls under Section 6.00 of the Listing of Impairments because of your heart transplant medication, then you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
  • Thin bones, which may cause bone fractures (Listings 1.06 and 1.07). Heart transplant medication may cause your bones to thin. If you suffer a significant fracture of your femur, tibia, pelvis, a tarsal bone, or an upper extremity bone, then you may qualify for Social Security disability if you meet the requirements of Listing 1.06 or 1.07.
  • Diabetes (Listing 9.00). The medications that you are on to keep your body from rejecting your heart transplant may cause diabetes. If this happens to you and you meet the requirements of Listing 9.00(5), then you should qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
  • Cancer, especially skin cancer or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (listing 13.03 or 13.05). Anti-rejection medications can make you more susceptible to some kinds of cancer. If you suffer skin cancer or lymphoma from your medication, or for any other reason, and you meet the Listing of Impairments requirements, then your Social Security disability benefits should continue beyond one-year post-transplant or begin again once you are eligible for benefits.

Other conditions such as high blood pressure or an infection may also result in a permanent disability.

Even if your condition is not listed above, you may still qualify for benefits if you can prove that you can’t work because of your physical condition.

Are You Eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Our experienced Social Security disability lawyers will thoroughly review your claim and consider all of your legal options.

If, at any point during your first year of Social Security disability eligibility, you think that you might be unable to go back to work, then we encourage you to contact us right away so that we can minimize any disruption in your benefits. Likewise, if you develop any complications after your first year of benefits expires, then you may still have a successful Social Security disability complication.

To learn more, contact Keefe Disability Law today for a free, no-obligation consultation about your rights. Additionally, if you know someone on the heart transplant list or who is recovering from a heart transplant, please share this article with them as a way to show your support.

 

John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer