Can You Get Disability for COPD?

Posted on Tuesday, December 14th, 2010 by Loyd Bourgeois    

I am currently working on a New Orleans social security disability application for a client with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  I thought it would be good to discuss how a disability claim for COPD is evaluated by SSA under the listings.

COPD is a listing level disease.  It is a Respiratory Impairment.  It is listed at Listing 3.02(A).  This means that if your medical records establish the requirements set forth in the listing then your disability application should be approved at Step 3 of the Sequential Evaluation Process.  This is important because if your COPD meets the requirements in the listing, then SSA does not have to evaluate whether or not your COPD prevents you from performing past relevant work or work generally available in the national economy.

Let’s take a look at what is required to meet the COPD listing.  The listing provides as follows:

“A. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, due to any cause, with the FEV1 equal to or less than the values specified in Table I corresponding to the person’s height without shoes.

Height (w/o shoes) (cm) Height (w/o shoes) (in) FEV1 equal to or less than (L, BTPS)
154 or less

155-160

161-165

166-170

171-175

176-180

181 or more

60 or less

61-63

64-65

66-67

68-69

70-71

72 or more

1.05

1.15

1.25

1.35

1.45

1.55

1.65

FEV1 is defined as the forced expiratory volume at one second – that is – it is the amount of air a person can exhale (blow out) in one second.

If you are close to meeting, or do in fact meet, the FEV1, you are in pretty bad shape health wise.  The values SSA uses for the FEV1 analysis are considered low because SSA is erring on the side of caution.

Claimants who have COPD usually cannot tolerate dust, smoke, or fumes and can have problems with extreme temperatures or humidity.  COPD usually results in an exertional impairment. The full extent of the exertional impairment will have an impact on whether your COPD qualifies for disability.

Many disability applicants with COPD are older than 50 and thus fall onto the grids.  Winning disability for a claimant younger than 50 with COPD is difficult unless the COPD is termed as moderate or worse (and often severe or worse is required) and results in significant exertional impairments.

Social Security will also look at your longitudinal medical record (your medical history over time) to determine whether treatment provides any functional recovery. If you do not have a regular doctor or receive regular medical care despite your COPD, you may not be able to meet the listing, but may be able to equal the listing or show functional limitation sufficient to qualify you for benefits.

Typically, if you apply for social security disability alleging COPD or another respiratory ailment, SSA will send you for a consultative examination. At this CE, the doctor will perform a spirometric pulmonary function test. This test measures your FEV1.

SSA has developed detailed rules for interpreting the FEV1 results and uses your most stable state of health values for determining whether or not you meet the listing.

Even if you do not meet the listing for COPD, your COPD may result in sufficient functional limitations to prevent you from performing your past work or any work in the national economy.

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