Emphysema is a chronic lung disease that impairs your ability to breathe. As it progresses, breathing becomes increasingly difficult, making it impossible for you to maintain certain types of employment.
If you end up being unable to do the types of work that you are trained and qualified for, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may find you disabled and grant you benefits. If you are also over 50, your chances of a successful claim go up when the SSA grid rules are applied to your condition.
Grid Rules and Emphysema
The SSA decides certain disability claims using the so-called ‘grid rules’. They are based on the fact that older individuals will find it more difficult to transition to a new occupation, as well as the reality that many employers will not hire someone over 50 for an entry-level position.
Consequently, the grid may find you disabled even if you technically can do a different type of work.
To arrive at a disability finding, the SSA grid uses the following factors:
- Your age
- The amount of education you have received (for example, high school diploma vs. college degree)
- The level of skill required at your previous job
- Whether you have skills that can be used in a different occupation
- Your ability to do sustained physical labor
What Type of Work Can Someone Do With This Condition?
Jobs that require sustained physical labor, such as construction worker, landscaper, or bricklayer, can be impossible for those with emphysema. This is because the symptoms characteristic of the condition, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and heart problems can negatively affect performance.
If, for example, you are a 54-year-old welder with a high school diploma, you have a better chance of being approved for benefits than if your employment history consisted of sedentary jobs, such as secretary or accountant.
Even if your standing on the grid does not result in a disability finding, claimants over 50 may still be approved for benefits because of the challenges they face both in the retraining and hiring process.
Meeting a Blue Book Listing
When it receives a disability benefits application, the SSA will consult the Blue Book, its catalog of recognized disabilities, and determine whether the applicant’s condition meets a listing.
While there is no specific listing for emphysema, it is included in Section 3.00 - Respiratory Disorders, where it is described as an ‘obstructive pulmonary disease’. Claimants must undergo a spirometry test, which measures how much air they can force out during the first second of exhalation.
If the results diverge from what is considered normal for your age, height, and gender, the SSA will find you disabled.
Even though you cannot work, the fact is that most SSA disability claims are initially rejected. This is why you should consider working with a Social Security attorney or advocate when preparing your claim.
These professionals understand what the SSA expects, and can make sure that your application package is both complete and accurate. If the claim is denied for any reason, an attorney or advocate can increase your chances of acceptance by representing you in court and presenting your case.
This level of support increases your chances of being approved for disability benefits, so the time and money spent engaging their services are both well-spent.