Social Security Disability


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    Social Security Disability and COPD

    SSDI and COPD 

    Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is a lung disease that causes chronic inflammation and obstructs adequate air from to and from the lungs. Someone with COPD will experience difficulty breathing and may find that they cough a great deal, wheeze and expel a lot of mucus.  

    Is COPD considered a disability? 

    The most common cause for COPD, according to the medical experts at Mayo Clinic, is “long-term exposure to irritating gases or particulate matter, most often from cigarette smoke.” Those who develop the condition are often a greater risk for developing lung cancer, heart disease and other life-threatening issues – especially chronic bronchitis and emphysema. 

    And while COPD is a progressive disease that is going to worsen as time passes, there are treatments. Yet, the severity of the issue can make it a disability. In fact, Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, identifies it as a “listing level disease,” meaning that the Social Security Administration or SSA views it as a disability. 

    The Medical Criteria for SSDI Qualification 

    The SSA has identified a list of specific criteria that can automatically identify COPD as a disability. If your symptoms meet the criteria, you will not have to be evaluated further by the SSA to begin receiving SSDI benefits. 

    The SSA uses something known as FEV or forced expiratory volume (the amount of air someone exhales for a second) to gauge the severity of COPD. Someone who meets the required level is likely to easily qualify for SSDI benefits. The results of the following tests are what the SSA officially uses to determine if you meet the criteria: 

    • A spirometry test to examine the FEV 
    • An ABG test to measure oxygen and CO2 in the blood  
    • An oxygen saturation test 
    • A DLCO test to measure oxygen transport into the blood 

    Anyone who has had three hospitalizations or more in the last calendar year for their COPD also automatically qualifies. 

    COPD and a Medical Vocational Allowance 

    What if you don’t meet the criteria yet? You can qualify for disability benefits with a medical vocational allowance. This is used by the DDS or Disability Determination Services to look at your medical issues, your work history, your age, your skills, your education and any restrictions and limitations caused by COPD and its symptoms. 

    They use an RFC or residual functioning capacity form as part of your medical vocational allowance review, as well. This is an extremely detailed form, and it examines closely just what you can do and cannot do. For instance, it would easily note you cannot work in a dusty environment because of your COPD. It would note you are easily short of breath, so you cannot walk a great deal. It is best if your treating doctor completes the form with you and supplies the records needed. 

    It is also a good idea to contact legal experts to help with your medical vocational allowance and RFC. They may add statements from caregivers or others to further prove your need for financial support. 

    The team at Jorgensen Law specializes in SSDI issues and can help you seek out the benefits you need when you live with something as complex as COPD.