Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Social Security Disability
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a serious respiratory condition that affects approximately 16.4 million Americans in the United States. Some of the individuals who suffer from COPD are unable to work due to the secondary illnesses and serious symptoms that can be caused by the condition. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is almost always a long-term or permanent disability and there is no cure for the condition. Because of this, individuals suffering from the condition often consider applying for Social Security Disability benefits. If you have been suffering from COPD and are unable to work because of the symptoms you have been experiencing, the following information may help you with your Social Security Disability claim.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease - Condition and Symptoms
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (also referred to as COPD, Chronic Obstructive Airway Disease, Chronic Airflow Limitation and Chronic Obstructive Respiratory Disease) is most often caused by prolonged exposure to lung irritants. Smoking is one of the leading causes of COPD, although air pollution and prolonged exposure to chemicals may also contribute to the condition.
When a person suffers from COPD, the airways to the lungs begin to lose their elasticity. This symptom gradually becomes worse over time. The air sacs in the lungs are also destroyed as the condition progresses and mucous begins to form and clog the airways. Because the amount of oxygen being taken in by the lungs is decreased due to the developing condition, COPD can also have a significant impact on the health of the heart.
There are two secondary conditions that people living with COPD often suffer from, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The majority of COPD patients suffer from both of these conditions. Individuals who suffer from emphysema begin to experience significant damage to the alveoli of the lungs. This makes it harder for the body to exchange oxygen and carbon monoxide. Those who suffer from chronic bronchitis begin to develop inflammation of the airways. This results in excess mucous production and can make it very difficult to breathe. The symptoms alone will not be enough to diagnose your condition, however. When diagnosing COPD your doctor will order a variety of tests including lung function tests and x-rays as well as physical exams.
There is currently no cure for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Treatment, however, is available to slow the progression of the condition. Treatment options include smoking cessation treatments, vaccinations against respiratory infections, respiratory rehabilitation and anti-inflammatory medications. Long-term oxygen therapy and inhalers are also used to treat COPD patients. In extreme cases, lung transplants may be considered.
Filing for Social Security Disability with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
When the Social Security Administration (SSA) reviews a disability claim they reference a “Blue Book” that contains a listing of impairments that have been defined by the SSA. The SSA does not have a specific listing for COPD in its listing of impairments. The COPD condition does, however, fall under Section 3.0 of the Social Security impairment listings, which covers respiratory illnesses. According to the SSA, the condition of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is categorized as an obstructive airway disease.
When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits based on a claim of COPD you will need to prove that the condition is severe enough to prevent you from performing substantial gainful work activity in order to receive disability benefits. This can be done by providing detailed medical records in addition to work history information. Make sure that your doctor documents all of the symptoms you are suffering from as well as the severity of each symptom. This will make it easier for you to prove your Social Security Disability case.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Your Social Security Disability Case
When reviewing your Social Security Disability application, the SSA is going to evaluate how your condition limits your ability to work, how much treatment you have had and how you have responded to such treatment. It is important that you provide enough evidence to support your claim with your Social Security Disability application. Your medical records need to include all of the treatments you have tried and what effect, if any, those treatments have had on your condition and symptoms.
If there is not enough evidence available to prove that you are completely disabled due to your COPD condition, the SSA may require you to go for a consultative exam prior to making a decision regarding your Social Security Disability application. This exam is not intended to treat your COPD condition. The sole purpose of this exam is to determine the severity of your condition and to evaluate how your case of COPD affects your ability to work.
It is not uncommon for a patient suffering from COPD to be denied disability benefits at the initial stage of the Social Security Disability application process. In fact, only 30 percent of applications are approved at this stage of the process. You may want to consider hiring a disability lawyer to represent you in your effort to obtain disability benefits. Your chances of filing a successful Social Security Disability claim are statistically much greater with proper legal representation.
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