Most people with aneurysms must avoid heavy lifting or emotional stressors, as both can increase the risk of rupture or dissection (splitting from the wall of the artery). Some aneurysms can be treated successfully with medication and, occasionally, by surgery. For those whose aneurysms are life-threatening, Social Security disability benefits may be available.
Aneurysms can occur any place there is an artery; however, the most common location is in the aorta (the primary artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body) or the brain. If they occur in areas other than the aorta or brain they are called peripheral aneurysms. Some common places for peripheral aneurysms to appear are behind the knee, near the groin, in the neck, and in the intestines.
If you meet the basic requirements for disability (discussed below), the Social Security Administration (SSA) will review your medical records to see whether your aneurysm meets the requirements of its medical listing for aneurysm of the aorta or major branches (which are usually thought to be the brachiocephalic trunk and the bilateral carotid, subclavian, renal, common iliac, and internal and external iliac arteries).
If your aneurysm doesn't meet the requirements exactly (say it's a dissected aneurysm of the femoral artery), you could "equal" the requirements of the listing if the characteristics of your aneurysm make it just as serious. If you can't meet or equal the aneurysm listing, you could meet the requirements of the central nervous system vascular accident listing if you've had a stroke.
If you suffer from an aneurysm of the aorta or its major branches (from any cause), you may be eligible for automatic approval under its listing if you meet the following requirements:
The SSA will conclude that your aneurysm is not under control if you continue to have chest pain because the dissection worsens, your aneurysm gets bigger, or the aneurysm compresses one or more main branches of your aorta.
Aneurysms located in the brain can cause a stroke if they rupture. If you experience a stroke and, as a result, suffer from one of the following complications, you may be eligible for automatic approval of benefits:
If your stroke has damaged your vision or your ability to talk, you can be approved automatically for benefits if:
Because the listing requirements for stroke are complicated, you should review them with your doctor. (It helps if you bring our stroke listing form to your doctor.)
You may be able to still win your claim for disability even if you don’t meet one of Social Security's medical listings. The SSA is also required to look at the restrictions in your medical records to decide if you can still do your old job, or any other work.
To decide what work you can and can't do, the SSA must establish your residual functional capacity (RFC). Your RFC is the most you can do on a regular and sustained basis. To determine your RFC, the SSA will use the medical evidence in your file to see how your symptoms affect your ability to do certain physical work-related activities. Some of these activities are:
If the SSA determines that your aneurysm prevents you from doing even a sedentary (sit-down) job, you will be approved for benefits. However, if the SSA decides you can still do sedentary work, you will be denied under most situations, unless you are older and have no transferable skills. To learn more, read our article on medical-vocational allowances.
Here are some examples of disability claimants with aneurysms.
The SSA must look at all of your impairments when it considers your claim for disability. This means, for example, that if your aneurysm caused damaged to another organ (such as the heart or kidneys), you may be eligible for disability based on both the aneurysm and the organ that was affected. You may also be eligible for benefits if you have additional medical conditions unrelated to your aneurysm.
To be eligible for disability, you cannot be working at the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level. For 2019, SGA is defined as earning $1,220 a month from work. Additionally, your illness must prevent you from working at the SGA level for at least 12 consecutive months.
For Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a need-based benefit for people who don’t have a qualifying work history, you must fall within certain income and asset limits.
For Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), you must have a qualifying work history with companies that have paid taxes to Social Security.
If you have questions about how to apply for disability based on your aneurysm, or how to appeal a denial of benefits, it may be helpful to speak with an experienced disability attorney.