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Overcoming a negative exercise tolerance test

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If you are unable to work because of ischemic heart disease, chronic heart failure or another cardiac impairment, but your North Carolina Social Security disability benefits claim was denied, it may be because your medical records include a negative exercise tolerance test.

“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 tolerance tests are symptom-limited tests in which you exercise while connected to an electrocardiograph or electrocardiogram (ECG) “until you develop a sign or symptom that indicates you have exercised as much as is considered safe for you.” Exercise testing plays an important role in the Social Security Administration’s evaluation of cardiac impairments. The Listing criteria for both ischemic heart disease and chronic heart failure include exercise tolerance test results.

A negative exercise tolerance test is not an insurmountable obstacle to an award of North Carolina Social Security disability benefits. Even the Social Security Administration acknowledges that exercise tolerance tests are not 100% accurate; moreover, the Social Security Administration considers the results of an exercise tolerance test to be timely for 12 months after the date the test is performed, unless there is a “change in your clinical status that may alter the severity of your cardiovascular impairment.” Negative test results and “old” test results must be considered “together with all the other relevant evidence in your case record.” Thus, you may be found disabled, despite a negative exercise tolerance test, if you provide the Social Security Administration with other evidence that shows that your cardiac impairment severely limits your ability to function and perform the activities of daily living. This other evidence might include, for example, updated medical records; new information from your treating cardiologist, including a detailed description of how your impairment limits your functional capacity; and, perhaps most importantly, testimony from you about the impact of your symptoms on your daily life.

If you have ischemic heart disease, chronic heart failure or another cardiac impairment, and you would like us to review the evidence related to your North Carolina Social Security disability benefits claim, please contact us.

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