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Receiving Disability Benefits for COPD
If you have COPD you can potentially qualify for disability benefits through SSA. Your disability approval will hinge on:
- If you fully meet the SSA’s medical requirements under impairment listings
- Whether you have appropriate medical documentation for your COPD
- If you can meet the other SSA disability requirements (work credits, income, resources)
If your COPD is severe and significantly disrupts or prevents employment entirely, then you are likely to be approved for COPD and disability benefits. According to WHO, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the third-leading cause of death globally, causing 3.23 million deaths in 2019.
It can be extremely beneficial to have an experienced attorney from Carmichael Law Group assist you in obtaining disability benefits. The SSA disability system can be quite complex, with only about one-third of all initial applications approved. Your chances of an approval increase significantly when you have an advocate in your corner that knows everything there is to know about SS disability benefits.
As nationwide disability attorneys, we have compassion for your situation, and will use our knowledge, skills, and resources to help you get the COPD disability benefits you need and deserve. We do this by first ensuring you meet the SSA’s five-step review process. Once you have passed that process, we begin crafting your story. Your story tells the SSA just how much your impairment has affected your ability to work and to engage in day-to-day activities.
Social Security does not pay for partial disability or short-term disability—only total disability. SSA determines whether you are disabled by asking the following five questions:
- Are you currently working? If you are working, and you are consistently making more than $1,310 per month, you will probably not be considered disabled.
- Does your disability prevent you from performing basic work-related activities (walking, standing, sitting, remembering)? In short, is your condition considered “severe?”
- Does your disabling medical condition meet or equal the severity of a listing found in the Blue Book list of medical conditions?
- Are you able to do the work you did prior to your disability?
- Can you make an adjustment to do any other type of work?
What Is COPD?
COPD causes abnormalities in the small airways of the lungs, leading to a limitation in airflow in and out of the lungs. COPD can cause difficulty breathing, a chronic cough, and debilitating, chronic fatigue. Those with COPD can have “flare-ups” that significantly worsen their symptoms. This can require extra treatments at home or an admission to the hospital for emergency care. Risk factors for COPD include:
- Indoor air pollution, including that from a wood stove
- A rare genetic condition known as alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, which can cause early-onset COPD
- Tobacco exposure (active or passive)
- Early life events such as frequent or severe respiratory infections
- Occupational exposure to dusts, fumes, or chemicals
Is COPD a Disability Under Social Security Disability Rules?
To qualify for disability benefits for your COPD, the SSA will use the impairment listings to determine whether or not your COPD is severe enough to warrant disability payments. COPD is listed in the chronic respiratory disorder section of the impairment listings, 3.02. To be considered for COPD and disability benefits, you must have a recent spirometry test. This test measures airflow in and out of the lungs, involving three maneuvers that require you to force air in and out of your lungs. The impairment listings include several charts under section 3.02 that can be reviewed with a doctor or pulmonologist to determine where your test results fall.
You must also take a DLCO test. This test measures the gas exchange across your lung’s cell membranes to evaluate your COPD. You will also need to provide ABGs, or Arterial blood gasses which measure the amount of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen ions in your blood. The SSA will also look at your pulse oximetry level readings. These reading measure the percentage of oxygen saturation to your blood hemoglobin. It is likely your doctor takes this reading on a regular basis. If you have experienced severe exacerbations or complications from your COPD that have resulted in a minimum of three hospitalizations within a 12-month period (at least 30 days apart), you will automatically be considered disabled for one year from the discharge date of your most recent admission.
The SSA may also ask for imaging tests (CT or X-ray), documentation of your use of supplemental oxygen (including flow rate), and lung function tests. Those with COPD may experience difficulties with their heart as a result of decreased oxygen levels. If this is true for you, you may qualify for disability under Cardiovascular System—4.00 in the impairment listings. You would need to provide Echocardiogram results, stress test results, ECG results, evidence of angina, history of fainting, history of a heart attack, or a cardiac catheterization.
Providing Proof for COPD and Disability Benefits
The SSA will also want documentation of any medications you are currently receiving—and your response to those medications. They will ask for documentation of past medications you took for your COPD as well as for your response to those medications. You will also be asked for documentation of respiratory therapies or pulmonary rehabilitations, supplemental oxygen needs, records of prior surgeries and procedures, and related medical complications.
While you may not fully meet the impairment listing for COPD and disability benefits, you could still be unable to work. As an example, you could experience dizziness or fainting, making it difficult, if not impossible, to hold down a full-time job. Further, medications such as bronchodilators or steroids come with their own side effects.
Getting Help with Your COPD and Disability Benefits from Carmichael Law Group
Even though you may clearly be unable to work, you may need highly qualified legal assistance from Carmichael Law Group to ensure your application for COPD and disability benefits is approved. We will help you provide all the necessary documentation, ensuring that your application is complete and has the best chance for success. The lawyers at Carmichael Law Group believe in our clients and fight for their futures. Contact Carmichael Law Group, LLC today.