COPD is a recognized disability by the Social Security Administration (SSA), but to be able to obtain a disability benefit, it must be determined that the functional limitations you are suffering from is serious enough to prevent you from doing the sort of work that you have been normally doing or the sort of work you are trained or qualified to do.
COPD is a serious pulmonary disease that has no known cure and is progressive, i.e. it gets worse over time. The primary symptoms are: difficulty in breathing, wheezing, a chesty cough with phlegm, tiredness and a propensity to develop other chest infections. These symptoms get worse as the condition advances. This combination of symptoms makes it difficult or impossible to do any physical work that involves standing, bending or lifting.
Qualifying For Disability Benefits With a Functional Limitation
The SSA’s Blue Book has a listing for COPD that determines whether the stage of the disease you now have is sufficient to be eligible for a disability benefit. The main criterion is a test of how much air you can blow out (exhale) in one second, known as the Forced Expiratory Volume 1 (FEV1). This amount is deliberately quite low, and many people with COPD find that they are on the border line when it comes to the Blue Book criteria based just on the FEV1 test.
For those applicants who don’t meet the Blue Book criteria, there is still a chance of obtaining a disability benefit through a Medical Vocational Allowance (MVA). This takes into account not just your medical condition, but how this affects your ability to do a job.
To assess your eligibility, a residual functional capacity form will be completed. This involves several tests of your physical abilities such as how much you can lift, crouch, bend, stand, etc. It also takes into consideration the functional limitations imposed by symptoms of COPD that you suffer from. For example, you may not be able to tolerate any smoke or dust.
What to Expect When Applying For SSD with a Medical Vocational Allowance
In order to apply for a disability benefit with a medical vocational allowance, you will need to complete a residual functional capacity form (RFC). This can be done by your own doctor, who should know your medical condition better than most and the limitations on your physical abilities. The Disability Determination Services (DDS) may also use their own medical examiner to complete the series of tests for the RFC.
The DDS will also examine your medical history and job history to see what sort of work you might have been capable of if you hadn’t developed COPD and how much the condition you now experience limits you in terms of job types or whether you are incapable of doing any kind of work at all. Generally, it is recognized that COPD is a degenerative disease and although is responsive to treatment, it is not curable. This means that it is unlikely that your condition would ever improve sufficiently for you to return to work in the future.
Have a professional on your side
The help from a disability lawyer can make all the difference when it comes to applying for a disability benefit. The lawyer will know how the SSA determines eligibility for a disability benefit and whether you have sufficient documentation to persuade a medical examiner or administrative review judge that your functional limitation prevents you from effective work.