Can I Work With Emphysema?

What Is Emphysema?

Emphysema is a chronic lung disease that is usually caused by cigarette smoke or other environmental pollutants. There is no cure for emphysema short of a lung transplant, and most emphysema sufferers are not healthy enough to undergo the required surgery.

Even for those who are able to receive a lung transplant, there is a significant risk that the lung will collapse (the most recent figures as of this writing are 7% of transplant recipient’s lungs collapse).

Common Symptoms of Emphysema

Common symptoms of emphysema include: excessive mucus, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, wheezing, and skin discoloration. People with emphysema typically have low oxygen levels in their blood, which can further cause heart problems, irritability, and mental impairments. Some emphysema sufferers also get chronic headaches and may have trouble sleeping.

Many of those who have emphysema also have chronic bronchitis. Those who suffer from both diseases at the same time are said to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, whether you also suffer from chronic bronchitis or not, emphysema can be debilitating.

The shortness of breath and low oxygen levels experienced by emphysema sufferers tends to lead to fatigue. Additionally, many of the symptoms are triggered by physical exertion. This is especially true of shortness of breath.

The Social Security Administration recognizes emphysema as a potentially disabling condition and has specific guidelines regarding how severe the symptoms need to be in order for applicants to be approved for Social Security Disability benefits.

If you cannot work because of your emphysema, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

Emphysema and Your Ability to Perform Physical Work

Many people with emphysema are unable to continue performing physical work. The strain caused by activities such as lifting, bending, and walking for extended periods of time may trigger emphysema symptoms. Shortness of breath is the most common complaint associated with physical work.

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, your claim needs to clearly show that you are incapable of performing any work that you maybe qualified for. When it comes to your ability to perform physical work, the SSA will look at all of the jobs you have performed in the past 15 years and will determine whether you should be able to perform any of them despite your emphysema.

Additionally, the SSA will look at other jobs that you may qualify for that would require a lesser degree of physical work. If they find that you are capable of performing any work that you are reasonably qualified (or could be trained), your claim will be denied. It is important that your medical records clearly indicate all restrictions and limitations on your physical activities; including walking and lifting.

Emphysema and Your Ability to Perform Sedentary Work

Sedentary work doesn’t require as much physical activity as physical work. To qualify physically for sedentary work, you need to be able to sit in one place for six hours or more, lift up to 10 pounds occasionally and concentrate on tasks that often require hand to eye coordination.

If you are under 55 years old, the SSA may determine that you could reasonably be trained for a sedentary job, even if you are unable to do any of the jobs you have performed up until now. Proving that you are incapable of performing any work, including sedentary work, can provide a significant challenge.

Furthermore, working through the appeals process can be time consuming and frustrating.

Consult with a Social Security Attorney

Most people who apply for Social Security Disability benefits should contract a Social Security Disability lawyer. A lawyer who has experience working with Social Security Disability claims can help you file a claim that contains the kind of information the SSA is looking for when they determine whether or not to accept your Social Security Disability claim.

You should also continue to see your doctor and make sure that all treatments and your reaction to them are clearly documented, as this information will be considered by the SSA.