Do I Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits If I Have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t always make it easy for those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to get the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income benefits they deserve. Many claims are denied because SSA says:
(1) Your medical condition doesn’t meet the requirements of or is the equivalent of a Medical Listing,
(2) You can return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled, or
(3) There is other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity.
Not all cases of COPD are severe enough to make you eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, but Nancy Cavey has successfully represented many SSA applicants with COPD. She works to overcome the claims denial by working closely with you and your physician to show that you:
- Meet the requirements for a disability listing, or that
- Your limitations are too great for you to work at your old job or any other job in the national economy in view of your age, education and transferable work skills.
She offers a free initial consultation and welcomes the opportunity to speak with you about your Social Security disability claim.
What Is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?
COPD is a group of lung diseases that block your airflow. The leading causes of COPD include:
- Exposure to cigarette smoking,
- Exposure to wood, grain or coal dust or chemicals,
- Acid reflux like gastroesophageal reflux disease.
What Are The Symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?
The symptoms can include:
- Chronic cough,
- Frequent respiratory infections,
- Shortness of breath while doing everyday things,
- Blueness of your lips or fingernails,
- Mucus, and
Your symptoms should be confirmed by spirometry, arterial blood gas testing and chest x-rays. A Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) also can provide objective evidence of how COPD affects your ability to perform physical tasks.
When Your COPD Meets A Listing
COPD is included in the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments.” If you meet or have the equivalent of a Listing, your Social Security disability benefits will be awarded at Step 3 of the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation.
You must be diagnosed with COPD, have a lung function test performed a consultative physician hired by SSA and meet certain FEV1 values on testing. Alternatively, if you can’t meet the FEV1 values and your lungs have problems oxygenating your blood, you can qualify if you have a poor diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide or poor arterial blood gas values of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
If your breathing tests don’t meet the Listing level requirements, you may still qualify for Social Security Disability benefits based on medical and vocational criteria at Steps 4 and 5 or as a result of other medical problems. Those with COPD often have other medical conditions, like coronary artery disease, that alone can meet a Listing. Having other serious medical conditions that limit your ability to function increases your chance of getting your Social Security Disability benefits.
When Your COPD Makes It Impossible to Work
If your COPD doesn’t meet a listing, you will have to prove that you:
- Can’t return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled (PRW), and
- There isn’t any other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity (RFC).
SSA or, ultimately an Administrative Law Judge, will answer those questions by determining your residual functional capacity. Your RFC is what you can do despite your COPD.
Residual Functional Capacity For COPD
The SSA will review your medical records at the Initial Application and Reconsideration stage of the claims process and determine your functional capacity to perform sedentary, light, medium and heavy work.
SSA medical consultants often opine that a Social Security Disability applicant can do light and sedentary work, and that will result in a claims denial. The lower your RFC the more likely that you can’t return to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years or perform other work. SSA doesn’t tell applicants or physicians about the existence and importance of a properly completed COPD RFC or mental impairment forms that explain:
- How far you can walk, despite your shortness of breath,
- How long you can stand and sit at one time and for an eight-hour day,
- How much and how often you can lift, stoop, squat, bend during an eight- hour day,
- Whether you have to alternate sitting and standing,
- Whether you have good days and bad days and how many days per month you would miss from work, and
- Whether you have psychological problems, such as depression or anxiety, that would interfere with your ability to work.
This is not an exhaustive list of all of the questions on a COPD RFC form. But you can see that having an explanation of what you can do physically and emotionally is key to winning your case.
Many SSA cases are lost because the applicant did not obtain an RFC or the right RFC form, or because their treating physician didn’t properly complete the RFC form. That is one of the many reasons you should have an experienced Social Security attorney like Nancy L. Cavey represent you in your claim.
How Your Residual Functional Capacity Is Used At A Social Security Hearing
Many claims are denied both at the Initial Application and Request For Reconsideration stages of the claims process.
At the hearing stage, the Administrative Law Judge will determine your RFC and give hypotheticals to the vocational evaluator (VE) who will testify at your hearing. The judge will ask the VE to take into consideration your RFC, as determined by the judge, your age, education and prior work experience in determining:
- Whether you can return to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years,
- Whether there is other work you can do or could learn to do.
It is crucial that you are represented at a hearing to make sure the right questions are asked of the VE.
How Do I Get The Social Security Disability Benefits I Deserve For COPD?
COPD can interfere with your daily activities and with your ability to work. If you no longer can work or your doctor has told you to apply for Social Security disability, you should hire Nancy Cavey to help you:
- File your initial Social Security Disability application. The application process is confusing and designed so you make mistakes that can result in a delay or even a denial of your benefits.
- Appeal a wrongful denial of your Social Security disability application or Request for Reconsideration.
- File an Application for Hearing and represent you at the hearing with the Administrative Law Judge who will decide if you get benefits. She will have your physician, if possible, complete the right RFC(s), prepare you for the hearing, prepare a hearing brief, and be prepared to cross-examine the VE.
The SSA is in the business of denying claims and will use any reason to deny your benefits. The odds of getting your Social Security benefits are greater when you are represented by an experienced Social Security Disability attorney like Ms. Cavey.
Contact Social Security Disability Attorney Nancy L. Cavey, Who Can Help You Regardless of Where You Live in Florida
You owe it to yourself and your family to get help today! Ms. Cavey can explain the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation process used in every claim, the claims process and how to get your disability benefits for COPD. Call today for a free consultation at 727-894-3188.