Getting approved for Social Security Disability when you have COPD

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In my last post I talked about how COPD is evaluated in people seeking Social Security Disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits.  I also talked about how you can meet a “listing” for COPD, but noted that often times people cannot show that they meet the listings.

Today, I’d like to talk a little bit about how you can still be approved for SSDI and SSI benefits on the basis of COPD.

If you do not meet a listing, the evaluator has to determine what’s called your “residual functional capacity” and then compare that to the types of jobs you have done in the past and other jobs available in the national economy to decide if you are disabled.

Your residual functional capacity is basically the most you are able to do despite your COPD and any other medical and psychiatric conditions you may have. When determining your residual functional capacity, the evaluator is supposed to consider how the symptoms you have from COPD affect your ability to function day-to-day, to determine if your COPD would prevent you from doing any full-time job.

In my experience, people with COPD will often have environmental limitations on their potential work. For example, some people have to avoid any exposure to dust, smoke and fumes because it worsens their COPD.  This can prevent them from working in certain environments, such as in industrial settings with smoke and fumes or in dusty outdoor settings such as construction.

Some people with COPD cannot tolerate very hot or cold temperatures, or extreme humidity, because of how it affects their COPD. These limitations could prevent them from working any job outside, as well as inside jobs where they could be exposed to heat or cold.

In addition to environmental problems, some of the most debilitating limitations from COPD can be exertional.  Exertional limitations  affect your ability to sit, stand, walk, lift, carry, push, and pull in the course of a workday.

COPD can cause you to be short of breath and unable to continue walking after just a few minutes. It can also prevent you from lifting heavy objects, and even from standing for long periods of time.

It is important to show the evaluator how your COPD affects your functional abilities on a day to day basis in these and other areas, and ultimately how your COPD prevents you from being able to work a full-time job.  Environmental as well as exertional limitations are often what prevent people with COPD from being able to work.

I always recommend that people with COPD enlist the help of an attorney to help them present their case to the Social Security Administration. Contact our office to find out how we can help.

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