What is Sick Sinus Syndrome and is it Disabling?

December 2, 2020 in

Sick sinus syndrome is a group of related heart conditions which affect the heart’s ability to beat. The heart’s natural pacemaker, or sinus node, functions to keep an appropriate heartbeat. When an individual suffers from sick sinus syndrome, it causes irregular heart rhythms. 

Symptoms of Sick Sinus Syndrome

There are three types of irregular heart rates related to sick sinus syndrome:

  • The first is sinus bradycardia, where the heart rate is too slow
  • The second is tachycardia, where the heart rate is very fast for a short period of time, followed by a very slow heart rate
  • The third is a combination of bradycardia and tachycardia. The symptoms of this condition clearly include irregular heartbeats, but you may also experience symptoms related to fatigue, dizziness, fainting spells, shortness of breath, chest pain, or confusion. 

Sick sinus syndrome is typically diagnosed through objective testing, including an electrocardiogram or Holter monitor testing. Most people suffering from this condition eventually require a pacemaker to help maintain their heartbeats. A pacemaker is a battery-powered electronic device implanted under the skin near your collarbone. The pacemaker not only regulates the heartbeat but also records data of your heart rates so the device can be adjusted periodically. Even with a pacemaker, some individuals develop additional cardiovascular complications such as heart failure or coronary artery disease. 

Sick Sinus Syndrome and Social Security Disability

If you suffer from sick sinus syndrome or have had a pacemaker implanted, you may be considering applying for social security disability benefits. This program was put in place to assist individuals who are struggling to work due to their medical conditions. Once an application for disability benefits is submitted, social security will review your claim to see if your condition meets their definition of disability. An individual may win disability benefits in two ways. The first is showing you meet or equal one of Social Security’s Listed conditions. The second way is by proving your residual functional capacity precludes you from engaging in substantial gainful activity. 

The Listings

Social Security has created a list of medical conditions, referred to as the Listings, which are deemed so severe that as long as you meet the medical criteria you will be found disabled relatively easily. Regarding Sick Sinus Syndrome, there is no exact Listing for this condition. This means you would need to prove your condition equals or matches closely enough to one of the cardiovascular listings. 

The first Listing that may be considered is 4.02 for Chronic heart failure. Listing 4.02 requires evidence of the following: the medically documented presence of systolic failure with left ventricular end-diastolic dimension or ejection fraction of 30% or less; or diastolic failure. The systolic or diastolic failure must result in one of the following: persistent symptoms of heart failure; three or more separate episodes of acute congestive heart failure; or inability to perform exercise tolerance tests equivalent to 5 METs or less. 

The second Listing that may be considered is 4.04 for ischemic heart disease. This Listing is less likely with a diagnosis of sick sinus syndrome, but depending upon your exact situation it may be applicable. Listing 4.04 requires proof of symptoms due to myocardial infarction with one of the following: sign or symptoms of limited exercise tolerance demonstrating workload equivalent to 5 METs or less; or three separate ischemic episodes each requiring revascularization; or coronary artery disease with angiographic evidence of narrowing resulting in very serious limitations in the ability to independently complete ADL’s. 

The third Listing to consider, and the most likely related to sick sinus syndrome is 4.05 for recurrent arrhythmias. This Listing requires evidence to prove uncontrolled, recurrent episodes of cardiac syncope or near syncope despite prescribed treatment. Because sick sinus syndrome causes irregular heart rhythms, this would be the listing that would be closely evaluated for this condition. Keep in mind, individuals suffering from irregular heartbeats will likely have other heart dysfunctions, which would bring the other cardiovascular listings into play. 

The fourth Listing to be considered related to sick sinus syndrome would be 4.06 for congenital heart disease. To prove this listing, you must show one of the following: cyanosis at rest; intermittent right to left shunting resulting in cyanosis on exertion, or secondary pulmonary vascular obstructive disease. 

Residual Functional Capacity

If you are unable to win your claim based upon a listing, you may also try to win by showing your condition precludes you from working or engaging in substantial gainful activity. To prove you are unable to work under social security’s definition of disability, you must show that your residual functional ability precludes you from performing work on a regular and consistent basis. Basically, you must prove your symptoms prevent you from working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week without significant accommodations from an employer. To prove your residual functional capacity, social security will evaluate your medical records to determine what is the most you are able to functionally do. This comes from reviewing your examinations, diagnosis and medical opinions related to your capabilities. Once your residual functional capacity is determined, social security will then determine how that impacts your ability to perform the work you have done in the past fifteen years, along with your ability to perform any other work in the national economy. This determination is usually made by consulting a vocational expert or someone who is well versed in job placement. The vocational expert will determine what jobs may or may not be performed in spite of certain limitations.  If it is determined that your residual functional capacity precludes all gainful employment, then you will win your application for disability benefits. 

LaBovick Law Group’s Social Security Disability Attorneys Can Help

Applying for disability benefits may seem like an easy task, especially if you have required a pacemaker. But this is clearly far from the truth. The government does not make it easy to obtain the disability benefits you deserve. Your best option to win disability benefits is by hiring an experienced social security disability attorney, someone who knows how to win your case. At the LaBovick Law Group, we only get paid if we win you benefits. There are no out-of-pocket or up-front costs. Give us a call today for a free consultation so we can help win you the benefits you deserve: (561) 623-3681.