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Is COPD A Disability?

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Yes, the Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as a potentially disabling condition. If COPD will prevent you from working 12 months or longer, you may be eligible for public disability benefits. 

To receive Social Security disability benefits, you need to show that your medical condition prevents you from doing work that earns a living wage. This is referred to as “substantial gainful activity.” Meeting these criteria can help increase your chances of being approved for assistance.

What is COPD?

COPD is a lung disease causing a blockage in airflow, which leads to breathing problems. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are two of the most common conditions that can contribute to the development of COPD. 

Both conditions can happen simultaneously and may worsen a person’s condition and can cause permanent and irreversibly damage to the lungs.

Common Symptoms of COPD

COPD symptoms begin to surface when there is significant damage to the lungs. In some cases, the condition may worsen over time. Smoke, dust, chemicals, or air pollution exposure can contribute to developing COPD and exacerbate its symptoms. 

Some of the symptoms of COPD may include:

  • Breathing problems while you engage in physical activity
  • Chest tightness
  • Chronic cough 
  • Wheezing
  • Respiratory infections
  • Low energy levels
  • Sudden weight loss 
  • Ankles, feet, or leg swelling

Some people may also have repeated episodes of exacerbations. For example, they may experience more severe symptoms than usual and may last for several days. COPD may also cause depression, anxiety, heart disease, lung cancer, and other potentially disabling conditions. 

Disability For COPD

Understanding The Fundamental Causes Of COPD

COPD often happens when the lungs become damaged or inflamed. Some of contributing factors may include: 

  • Smoking
  • Fumes or dust 
  • Genetics
  • Air pollution

Smoking: Smoking is one of the most common contributors to COPD. This is because the chemicals in smoke can damage the lining of the airways and the lungs.

Fumes or dust: Substances that may be linked with COPD include silica dust, coal dust, flour dust, welding fumes, and isocyanates. These substances are often found in workplaces. 

Genetics: Like many diseases, there is a potential hereditary component to COPD. Some people may inherit an alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, which is responsible for protecting the lungs. 

Air Pollution: Exposure to excessive air pollution may cause damage to the lungs, thereby increasing the risk of COPD. 

Can You Get Disability For COPD?

If you are struggling with COPD, you may qualify for disability benefits. COPD is recognized as a disabling condition in Section 3.02 of the Blue Book, the SSA’s disability guidebook.  There are two federal disability programs:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSI is designed to provide financial assistance to people who have limited income and resources, including those with COPD. SSI is not based on work history or contributions to the Social Security system, but rather on a person’s financial need and disability status. SSDI, on the other hand, is a program that provides benefits for people who have worked and paid into the Social Security system. SSI and SSDI can provide financial assistance to those with COPD to help them pay for treatment and other necessary expenses.

Both programs require applicants to show that they cannot work due to their medical condition. This often requires applicants to submit medical records that are relevant and accurate when applying. 

Eligibility Criteria for SSI for COPD Disability

Eligibility for SSI requires that applicants: 

  • Have an eligible and disabling condition 
  • Are at least 62 years old
  • Have restricted assets or income
  • Are a U.S. resident or citizen

Eligibility Criteria for SSDI for COPD Disability

Qualifying for SSDI requires an individual to have enough “work credits” before they experience a disability for COPD. Work credits measure a person’s work history and often depend on a person’s age, the number of years they’ve worked, and the taxes they’ve paid. 

How Long Does It Take To Get Disability Benefits For COPD?

After applying for federal disability benefits, it generally takes three to five months to receive a decision. If you’ve provided the necessary documents, such as medical records and COPD diagnosis, approval is possible.

After the SSA approves your claim, you may start receiving benefits within a few months. However, the exact timing can vary and often depends on several factors, including the severity of your disability and the date of your disability onset.

What Happens If Your Disability Claim Gets Rejected?

If you receive a denial for your application, you are eligible to file an appeal within 60 days of the decision. An experienced disability lawyer may make a difference in filing a strong appeal. 

They can help guide you through the process and spot potential problems with your application that led to its denial. The appeals process is referred to as a “Request for Reconsideration.” This may involve another SSA agent reviewing your application, or you may request that your appeal is heard before an administrative law judge.

Some important information and documentation you may need to present may include: 

  • Medical Vocational Allowance: This is an evaluation that assesses physical constraints, work history, education, and medical records for disability benefits eligibility.
  • Residual Functional Capacity (RFC): This is a medical exam that evaluates a person’s ability to perform tasks and actions based on their health condition.
  • Witnesses’ statements: These can include testimony from family members, friends, and work supervisors who can attest to your declining health due to COPD.  

Need Legal Support? Contact Our Experienced Disability Attorneys

If you’re facing difficulty with your disability claim for COPD, let us provide you with expert legal guidance. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation to evaluate your case. Contact us today through our online form or by calling 1-800-572-3753 and let us help you get the benefits you may be entitled to.

FAQs On COPD Disability