Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a lung condition that causes difficulty breathing. In the United States, people with severe cases may be eligible for disability benefits.
COPD is a
COPD is a progressive disease that gets worse over time. Quitting smoking can help slow the progression. However, even with proper treatment, COPD still progresses in severity and is a
This article explains whether COPD is considered a disability, when it becomes disabling, how to qualify for benefits, and more.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) considers a disability to be any physical or mental impairment that significantly limits one or more major life activities. This includes different types of conditions, such as breathing disorders.
When COPD is severe, the symptoms of the disease can affect a person’s ability to perform certain activities they need to get by in daily life. These include activities that fall under the ADA criteria, such as walking, performing manual tasks, and breathing.
The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (GOLD) has established criteria for grouping COPD into four stages. These range from early to advanced stages:
Moderate COPD, or stage 2, also falls under the
Stages 3 and 4 are where COPD can become disabling. In stage 3, there is
Learn more about worsening COPD here.
If COPD affects a person’s ability to work and live in the United States, they may be eligible to receive U.S. government disability benefits.
There are two types of benefits a person with COPD can receive. These are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
To be eligible for COPD disability, a person must undergo a disability assessment and meet certain criteria. The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires evidence to show that the benefits are needed.
Disability Assessment Criteria
A disability assessment considers the following factors:
- the severity of the medical condition
- Professional skills
- past work experience
The assessment of disability falls under different categories depending on the area of the body they affect. COPD falls under section 3.0 of the Blue Book, which outlines the medical criteria used to assess eligibility.
A person must provide medical evidence to show the seriousness of their condition and its impact on their ability to work and live their daily life. Medical proof is still required to qualify for disability benefits, even if a person uses supplemental oxygen.
Medical evidence must include the following:
- medical history, including diagnosis of COPD
- physical exam results
- medical imaging results showing signs of COPD
- pulmonary function test results
- any medication taken for COPD
Pulmonary function tests may include:
With COPD, spirometry test results may not be meaningful, so it is good to back up the results with a DLCO test.
How to register
There are different methods people can choose to apply. People can apply for disability benefits either:
- in person
- by telephone
- in line
- by mail
To apply online:
- Use the SSA Disability Checklist to gather all necessary documentation.
- Complete the disability benefit application process.
- Complete the medical release form.
More details on eligibility requirements are available in the Blue Book.
The Blue Book outlines the SSA’s medical criteria for different conditions and the types of medical evidence that must be included in an SSDI application.
Health and Social Security professionals use Blue Book criteria to assess a person’s condition and eligibility for SSDI.
Section 3.0 of the Blue Book is the general category of respiratory disorders. COPD falls under article 3.02, which refers to chronic respiratory disorders.
A person should check whether they meet the Blue Book criteria and gather the required evidence before applying for disability benefits.
According to Disability Benefits Help, it typically takes between 3 and 5 months for the SSA to respond after a person submits their initial claim.
If the SSA approves the application, payments will usually begin within a few months. However, they can take up to a year. If payments take more than 5 months to start, a person will receive backdated payments in addition to their monthly allowance.
If the SSA denies an application, a person can review their submission and check to see if they missed any important details. The SSA retains records in case a claimant chooses to appeal.
Applying for benefits can seem like a long process, but it’s usually faster if a person can accurately present all the necessary evidence.
All necessary medical evidence must be ready and in order before applying. A person should provide as much evidence as possible to give the SSA a clear picture of the impact of COPD on their life.
This will reduce the chances of the request being refused. A person must verify that they meet all the criteria set out in the Blue Book.
Additionally, it may be helpful to hire an attorney or Social Security advocate. They are more likely to notice areas where information may be missing or sections that need improvement.
COPD is a condition that affects the lungs and can also affect other organs in the body. The disease is progressive, beginning with mild symptoms in the early stages and more severe in the later stages. These severe symptoms can affect a person’s quality of life and ability to work.
When COPD affects a person’s ability to work, they may be eligible for disability benefits in the United States. She will need to submit an application to the SSA for approval.
If the application is approved, a person will receive monthly disability benefit payments. If the SSA denies a claim, a person may choose to reassess their claim and appeal.
Although the process may seem long, receiving help from Social Security can benefit someone with severe COPD by helping to ease the financial pressures associated with a disabling medical condition.