If you have a serious COPD condition, you may be able to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSD benefits are a type of insurance program provided to workers who are unable to continue working due to injury or illness. To qualify for SSD benefits, you must have sufficient work credits from when you were able to work. In contrast, SSI benefits do not require a work history and are intended for those with a qualifying disability who have few resources and little income.
Applying for Social Security benefits can be an extremely technical process and require multiple appeals. But working alongside an experienced Social Security attorney can eliminate much of your anxiety and concerns about the process. The Law Practice of Ken Kieklak has guided many Arkansans through the Social Security application and appeals process.
What is COPD?
COPD or Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease is not a condition in itself, but rather refers to a class of conditions that make breathing difficult for the affected individual. COPD occurs when a person has difficulty in emptying the air from their lungs due to an obstruction A person with COPD typically has some combination of chronic bronchitis or emphysema, but the exact make-up of the condition varies from person to person.
COPD is typically caused by environmental factors although genetics may also cause or contribute to COPD. Smoking, breathing polluted air, or exposure to chemicals at work may cause COPD. COPD can occur due to both long-term exposure to low levels or irritating particles and short-term exposure to concentrated irritants. These irritants can result in increased mucus production that cause the bronchial walls and tubes to become inflamed. COPD is typically diagnosed by something called spirometry which is the measure of a person’s lung function.
While asthma may mimic many of the symptoms of COPD, it is a different condition. However many people with COPD also have asthma and other respiratory conditions. Also related to COPD is restrictive lung conditions where the problem is in expanding one’s lungs rather than expelling air due to an obstruction.
Can I Qualify for Benefits with COPD or a Related Condition?
All disability claims submitted to the Social Security Administration are determined through a 5-Step sequential evaluation process for adults. At Step 1 of the process, you must satisfy the non-medical program requirement by not exceeding the permitted levels of income and work measured by substantial gainful activity (SGA).
At step 2, the inquiry into your condition begins. At this step the SSA will determine if your condition is considered to be severe. A severe condition is one that causes significant impairment. A non-severe impairment is one that causes few or no limitations in daily living.
To prove both the existence and severity of your COPD condition you will be required to present medical evidence. This evidence can include a:
- Thorough medical history
- Physical examinations
- Imaging tests like an x-ray
- Pulmonary testing
At Step 3, those with the most severe conditions – those that meet or exceed about 100 listed conditions – will qualify without further examination. For instance, Listing 3.02 discusses how the Administration will evaluate chronic pulmonary insufficiency which includes both COPD and Chronic restrictive ventilator disease (CRVD). The Listing includes a table of spirometry results. Based on height and FEV1 results, the amount of air a person can expel in 1 second, one may meet or equal the listing and qualify for benefits. Other related conditions may include:
- 3.03 Asthma
- 3.06 Pneumoconiosis
- 3.07 Bronchiectasis
- 3.08 Chronic and persistent lung infections
- 3.10 Sleep related breathing disorders
If one cannot satisfy step 3, they may still qualify through combined medical and occupational reasons. At Step 4, one’s residual functional capacity (RFC) is calculated. RFC includes the things that you are still able to do despite your serious impairment. If your RFC would permit you to perform previous work, you will not qualify for benefits. However if you are unable to do past work, you proceed to Step 5.
At Step 5 the Administration will determine — for your particularized impairment, age, education and training– if there is other work available in the national economy. The SSA takes into account the number of jobs of that type available in your region.
The Law Practice of Ken Kieklak is dedicated to helping hard-working Arkansans obtain disability benefits after an injury or illness forced them to stop working. For your free and confidential consultation with a Social Security benefits lawyer, contact us at 479-439-1843 or contact us online.