Can I Get Social Security Disability for COPD?
Yes, if you or a loved one is unable to work due to advanced COPD, you may be able to collect Social Security Disability benefits.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – abbreviated as COPD – actually refers to a series of lung diseases that block airflow and affect a person’s ability to breathe. More than 15 million Americans suffer from COPD. The two most common types of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
While treatment advances are being made, COPD is not currently curable. This means that patients must typically undergo treatment for the rest of their lives. As a result, many individuals suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease simply can no longer work.
As with any injury or illness, in order to be considered “disabled” by Social Security, you must be able to prove that your COPD is severe enough to keep you from working for at least 12 months. When reviewing your case, the Social Security Administration will take into consideration your age, your education, and your past work when deciding whether you should be found disabled.
You must also have enough Social Security “work credits” to collect Social Security Disability for COPD, or any other condition. (Note: if you do not have enough work credits to qualify for Social Security Disability, you may still qualify for SSI.)
Two ways to prove that COPD qualifies you for Social Security Disability:
- Meeting the Blue Book Listing Requirement
- Through a “Medical Vocational Allowance”
Meeting the COPD Blue Book Listing Requirements for Social Security Disability
The Social Security Administration will evaluate your COPD against the requirements in their “Blue Book” of medical conditions. COPD requirements are found in Section 3.02 of the Blue Book. If your medical condition “matches” this section of the blue Book, you will automatically be approved for benefits.
The Blue Book COPD Requirements for Social Security Disability are:
- a forced expiratory volume one (FEV1) that is equal to or lower to the minimum for your height, between 1.05 for those who are five feet and 1.65 or those who are six feet;
- a gas diffusion capacity (DLCO) of a single breath under 10.5 mil/min/mm Hg or a low amount of oxygen dissolved in the blood either during rest or exercise, as determined a low partial pressure of oxygen (PO2) and high partial pressure of carbon dioxide (PCO2).
Qualifying for Social Security Disability Without Meeting a Medical Listing
Keep in mind that even you don’t meet the Blue Book listing for COPD, there is another way to be approved for Social Security Disability benefits – if your conditions is severe enough. If yopu can prove that your COPD causes you to be unable to earn a minimum monthly income ($1,130 in 2017), you can still be approved for a medical-vocational allowance.
The Social Security Administration will figure out your “Residual Functioning Capacity” (RFC) by looking at your limitations, as well as your education and work history.
Your RFC will take into consideration the type of work you know how to do, and if the physical activity of the work exacerbates your symptoms.
Applying for Social Security Disability for COPD
Unfortunately, many Social Security Disability applications are NOT approved in the initial claim stage – requiring appeals that can take up to two years before you start receiving benefits. For this reason it is important to discuss your case with an experienced Social Security Disability Attorney.
To prove that your COPD renders you unable to work, medical evidence should typically include:
- Spirometry results (how much air you can force out in an exhale), which includes your FEV1.
- Imaging tests, such as chest X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs.
- Arterial blood gas analysis, which show how well your lungs take in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide.
- Lung function tests, such as a Lung Diffusion Capacity test
- Detailed statement from your physicians describing your medical history, condition, symptoms, and limitations.
- Summaries of all related surgeries, hospitalizations, and treatments.