If you have been diagnosed with peripheral arterial disease (PAD) and it has left you unable to work, you may be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. Social Security sometimes approves disability benefits for applicants whose use of their legs is limited due to PAD. In order to qualify for Social Security disability or SSI disability benefits, you must provide medical evidence that proves that you either meet Social Security’s criteria for PAD to automatically qualify as a disability or are unable to work any job due to the limitations PAD causes you.
PAD occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to your head, limbs, and organs. Over time, plaque consisting of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances can harden in the arteries and narrow them, making it more difficult for blood to get through. PAD generally affects the arteries in the legs but can also affect the arteries that flow from the heart to the head, arms, kidneys, and stomach.
When there is limited blood flow in an artery carrying oxygen, the muscles don’t get as much oxygen as they need. The most common symptom resulting from this is pain in the legs, particularly the calves, which is referred to as intermittent claudication. It can vary in intensity from being mild to excruciating. Rest helps.
You can also experience numbness or weakness, a leg or foot that is noticeably colder than the other, sores on the foot or leg that don’t heal, and a pulse that is undetectable or very weak in the leg. Some symptoms can be warning of a heart attack or stroke and require immediate medical care. There is also the chance of requiring limb amputation because of critical limb ischemia, or loss of blood flow.
You can also experience coldness in the affected leg/foot compared to the other leg/foot. Sores on the toes, feet, or legs that heal slowly, poorly, or not at all are not uncommon. Also, there may be changes in the color of the affected leg or weak or no pulse in the affected leg. Some symptoms can be warning of a heart attack or stroke and require immediate medical care. There is also the chance of requiring limb amputation because of critical limb ischemia, or loss of blood flow.
Social Security – Listing for Peripheral arterial disease, as determined by appropriate medically acceptable imaging causing intermittent claudication and one of the following:
A. Resting ankle/brachial systolic blood pressure ratio of less than 0.50.
B. Decrease in systolic blood pressure at the ankle on exercise of 50 percent or more of pre-exercise level and requiring 10 minutes or more to return to pre-exercise level.
C. Resting toe systolic pressure of less than 30 mm Hg.
D. Resting toe/brachial systolic blood pressure ratio of less than 0.40.
If you meet the above requirements, you qualify automatically for disability benefits without Social Security even needing to see how your PAD affects your activities. However, not many disability applicants with PAD meet the above requirements.
In assessing the severity of your PAD, Social Security will look at Doppler studies, angiographic findings (x-ray done with contrast), and blood pressure readings.
If you have had a peripheral graft, which is a surgery done to bypass the narrowed section of the artery, the test results from after the peripheral grafting will be used only to assess the severity of your impairment. Test results done before the peripheral grafting will be considered in determining the severity and duration of your PAD only before the surgery.
If your impairment does not meet or is not equivalent in severity to the criteria of any listing, you may or may not have the residual functional capacity to do substantial gainful activity. The determination of mental functional capacity is crucial to the evaluation of your capacity to work when your impairment does not meet or equal the criteria of the listings but is nevertheless severe.
Residual functional capacity is the claimant’s maximum remaining ability to do sustained work activities in an ordinary work setting on a regular and continuing basis. A “regular and continuing basis” means 8 hours a day, for 5 days a week or an equivalent work schedule. The claimant must have both the mental and physical abilities to perform sustained work activities. When the evidence supports a finding that the claimant has had a substantial loss of ability to meet the demands of basic work-related activities on a sustained basis, the unskilled sedentary occupational base is significantly eroded, and a finding of disability is justified under the Social Security Rules.
The basic mental demands of competitive, remunerative, unskilled work require the ability (on a sustained basis) to understand, carry out, and remember simple instructions; to respond appropriately to supervision, coworkers, and usual work situations; and to deal with changes in a routine work setting. A substantial loss of ability to meet any of these basic work-related activities would severely limit the potential occupational base and justifies a finding of “disabled” for even a younger individual under the Social Security Rules. The number of jobs the claimant is able to perform is reduced to fewer than significant numbers. The claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act and Regulations.