Tips on Applying for Disability with COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common disorder that blocks airflow and affects your ability to breathe, and can irreparably damage your lungs. Related disorders, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, often cause COPD and so are grouped together. The signs are often mistaken with other less serious conditions, and sometimes the disease can go undetected for years. If your COPD is severe and affects your ability to work, the Social Security Administration might be able to help, but there are some important medical information you should have prepared before applying for disability benefits.

Backing Up Your Claim

In order to win any claim, you need quite a bit of medical evidence detailing any test reports, hospitalizations, treatment regimes, operative reports, statements from your doctor, and a history of the condition’s affects. In the event that a test can’t be performed to diagnose COPD, your doctor can diagnose you based on a physical exam for symptoms, including abnormal shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness in the chest, a mucus-producing chronic cough, and more.

The most important test to present to the SSA is a spirometry. This test measures your forced vital capacity (FVC), the largest amount of air you can forcefully exhale after breathing in as deeply as possible, and your forced expiratory volume (FEV-1), how much air you can forcefully exhale in one second. You breathe in and out of tube for several seconds three different times, and your doctor will chose the highest value as your final result. Both FVC and FEV-1 readings are compared to your height to determine abnormalities.

A few other tests commonly used to diagnose COPD include CT Scans, chest X-rays, and arterial blood gas analysis. An X-ray can rule out other heart and lung problems and narrow down the diagnosis. A CT scan can determine if surgery will benefit your COPD or if you have lung cancer. Both imaging tests are also done to look for emphysema Arterial blood gas analysis measures how well your lungs bring in oxygen and take out carbon dioxide.

Even though COPD is listed in the SSA’s Blue Book, if you don’t meet their listings, they may not approve you unless you can prove it significantly affects your ability to work. In this case, especially if you are under 50, you can get a medical-vocational allowance. If you can prove there is no gainful work ($1,130 or more per month) you can do at your skill level, education, or age, the SSA may grant you disability.

Getting Extra Help

Applying for social security benefits can be a tough process. Many applicants are denied the first time, making applicants wait two years or more for the application benefits they need as they go through the appeal process. But getting help from a disability lawyer, you may be able to avoid the long wait. Lawyers can communicate with the SSA for you, make sure you have the correct paperwork and medical evidence, and help you fill out the application itself.

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