Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Social Security Disability Insurance
Here is an explanation of Social Security's five-step process to determine if a patient with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease qualifies for SSDI:
- Determine if an individual is "working (engaging in substantial gainful activity)" according to the SSA definition. Earning more than $1,040 a month as an employee is enough to be disqualified from receiving Social Security disability benefits.
- Conclude the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease disability must be severe enough to significantly limit one's ability to perform basic work activities needed to do most jobs. For example:
- Walking, standing, sitting, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching, carrying or handling
- Seeing, hearing and speaking
- Understanding/carrying out and remembering simple instructions
- Responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers and usual work situations
- Dealing with changes in a routine work setting
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is listed under the category of impairments known as Respiratory System - Medical Listing 3.02. Impairments caused by COPD disorders generally produce irreversible loss of pulmonary function due to ventilatory impairments, gas exchange abnormalities or a combination of both. The most common symptoms include dyspnea on exertion, cough, wheezing, sputum production, hemoptysis and chest pain. Because these symptoms are common to many other diseases, a thorough medical history, physical examination and chest x-ray or other appropriate imaging techniques are required to establish COPD. More sophisticated pulmonary function testing may then be necessary to determine if gas exchange abnormalities contribute to the severity of a respiratory impairment. Measurements such as one-second forced expiratory volume (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC) are required to evaluate severity. Additional testing might include measurement of diffusing capacity of the lungs for carbon monoxide or resting arterial blood gases.
- Explore the ability of an individual to perform work they have done in the past despite their chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. If the SSA finds that a person can do his or her past work, benefits are denied. If the person cannot, then the process proceeds to the fifth and final step.
- Review age, education, work experience and physical/mental condition to determine what other work, if any, the person can perform. To determine COPD disability, the SSA enlists medical-vocational rules, which vary according to age.
For example, if a person is:
Under age 50 and, as a result of the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, unable to perform what the SSA calls sedentary work, then the SSA will reach a determination of disabled. Sedentary work requires the ability to lift a maximum of 10 pounds at a time, sit six hours and occasionally walk and stand two hours per eight-hour day.
Age 50 or older and, due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, limited to performing sedentary work, but has no work-related skills that allow the person to do so, the SSA will reach a determination of disabled.
Age 55 or older and, due to the disability, limited to performing light work, but has no work-related skills that allow the person to do so, the SSA will reach a determination of disabled.
Over age 60 and, due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, unable to perform any of the jobs he or she performed in the last 15 years, the SSA likely will reach a determination of disabled.
Any age and, because of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, has a psychological impairment that prevents even simple, unskilled work, the SSA will reach a determination of disabled.
Check out information regarding the prescription drugs used to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
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