SSDI Eligibility Guidelines: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Determine if an individual is working (engaging in substantial gainful activity) according to the SSA definition. Earning more than $1,170 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.
SSDI & COPD: A Personal Story
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