November is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Awareness Month. According to the American Lung Association (ALA), COPD is a chronic pulmonary disease that can reduce lung function significantly. It is the third leading cause of death in the United States. The ALA says that only half of those with COPD, around 13 million people, have actually been diagnosed with the condition, making its public health impact even greater.
COPD, also known as emphysema or chronic bronchitis, is the result of an obstruction to airflow that ultimately makes it very difficult to breathe and can leave sufferers gasping for air, coughing and wheezing. It is not curable, but it can be managed to some degree, especially when caught in the early stages. The primary cause of COPD is cigarette smoking.
Diagnosis of COPD is done with a simple lung function test, called spirometry. Once diagnosed, patients may be prescribed medication, sent to smoking cessation programs and enrolled in pulmonary therapy sessions to improve lung function. Despite treatment, however, lung function and the ability to breathe can make even everyday activities very difficult. Patients with severe COPD may be unable to work because of their breathing problems.
If you have been diagnosed with COPD and can no longer work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has already determined the requirements a patient must meet in order to be eligible for SSD benefits. This means that you do not need to prove how the condition affects your ability to work if you meet the criteria.
Eligibility is determined by the spirometry test that measures how much air you can exhale in one second. The measure is called an FEV (forced expiratory volume). If your FEV is lower than the established thresholds, you are eligible. If your FEV is over the threshold, you will have to prove that your inability to breathe makes it impossible to work. This makes your claim more challenging, but it is still possible to obtain benefits.
Some people with COPD are able to exhale enough air to exceed the threshold established by the SSA but may still be eligible because their lungs are unable to properly oxygenate their blood. Depending on the results of other tests, one that measures diffusing capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide and the other that measures arterial blood gas values of oxygen and carbon dioxide, people who do not meet the FEV criteria may still be eligible for benefits.
If you are having trouble with your claim for SSD benefits after being diagnosed with COPD, do what so many others have done. Call Binder & Binder, America's most successful Social Security Disability advocates. Tell them your story and find out how they can help you.