Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a progressive respiratory condition that impacts over 451,000 people in New Jersey. If you have been diagnosed with COPD, you may be wondering how you will manage your health in the coming years. If the symptoms from your COPD leave you unable to work, you may also be concerned about how you will maintain your financial stability.
Thankfully, New Jersey is not taking the issue lightly. In 2015, a bill aimed at raising awareness and combating COPD within the state was signed into law. The bill established an 11-person task force to help identify COPD resources and determine the best way to improve the quality of life for people living with the disease. In addition to local resources, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has established two distinct programs aimed at offering financial assistance to individuals who are too ill to work as a result of COPD. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program is available to permanently disabled taxpayers who meet specific criteria.
Pulmonologists in New Jersey
In the early stages of COPD, the symptoms may be vague, often mimicking a cold or other respiratory illness. An ongoing cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath are often the first indicators. As such, the first person to diagnose you might be your primary care doctor.
While your primary care provider (PCP) is a great place to start, you will ultimately want to be referred to a pulmonologist. Pulmonologists are physician experts that specialize in disorders of the lungs and respiratory system. A pulmonologist can order the correct medical testing, manage your medications and treatments, and ensure that exacerbations of your COPD are kept to a minimum.
In addition to providing excellent medical care, your pulmonologist will play an essential role in your quest for disability benefits. When applying for SSDI, you will need to provide evidence of the severity of your illness. Your pulmonologist will be responsible for submitting medical records to the SSA on your behalf. You may also want to enlist the help of your pulmonologist to complete a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form. This detailed report will outline the symptoms of your COPD, as well as how your symptoms limit your abilities.
If you have decided to apply for Social Security disability benefits, you will want to discuss your intention with your pulmonologist. Also, you may want to review the respiratory section, 3.00 of the Blue Book. The Blue Book, also referred to as the list of impairments, is the SSA’s guide to medical conditions as they relate to disability.
If you are not currently working with a pulmonologist, here are three practices in New Jersey that we recommend:
Cardio Pulmonary Diagnostic, LLC.
340 Airis Drive, Suite 203 Newark, NJ 07114 (973) 596-1200 cardiopulmonarydiagnostic.com
Jersey City Medical Center Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care
355 Grand Street Jersey City, NJ 07302 (201) 915-2000 rwjbh.org/jersey-city-medical-center/treatment-care/pulmonary-medicine-and-critical-care/
St. Joseph’s Health Respiratory/Pulmonary
703 Main Street Paterson, NJ 07503 (973) 754-2000 stjosephshealth.org/clinical-focuses/specialized-services/item/1670-respiratory-pulmonary
COPD Support Groups in New Jersey
Unlike other health conditions that have a sudden diagnosis and relatively straight-forward prognosis, COPD is a chronic illness that varies from person to person. While some COPD patients may have severe symptoms, others can maintain their current health status for months, or even years, at a time.
Research has shown that individuals who feel supported during a health crisis tend to fare better than those without support. While family and friends can offer one aspect of support, some COPD patients have found comfort in joining a COPD support group. COPD support groups provide a gathering place for those suffering from the disease to share, educate, and feel connected.
While there are online forums and support groups for those unable to leave their homes, if you are able to get out, you may want to try one of the following groups:
Better Breathers Club – Pennington
Meets every third Tuesday of the month 1:00 to 2:30 pm BBC at Capital Health One Capital Way Pennington, NJ 08534 (609) 303-4000
Better Breathers Club – Steeplechase
Meets every second Thursday of the month from 10:30 am -12:00 pm Steeplechase Cancer Center 30 Rehill Avenue Somerville, NJ 8876 (908) 595-2345
Better Breathers Club – Hackensack
Meets every third Thursday of the month from 2:00-3:00 pm Better Breathers Club of Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center 87 Rt. 17 North Maywood, NJ 07607
Applying for Social Security Benefits for COPD in New Jersey
While many people are impacted by COPD, not all those who apply will be awarded disability benefits. Only those individuals who meet specific criteria as outlined by the Blue Book or whose impairments are very severe will be considered.
SSDI benefits are meant for individuals who are permanently disabled. This means that your COPD must last, or be expected to continue, for at least one year. As COPD is a progressive illness, this is typically the case. However, your pulmonologist will need to verify that your symptoms are expected to continue or worsen.
If you meet the criteria for COPD as established by the SSA you can apply for disability benefits online or in person. Listed below are three Social Security offices located in major cities in New Jersey:
Newark Social Security Office 07103
274 Springfield Ave Newark, New Jersey 07103 (800) 772-1213
Jersey City Social Security Office 07305
325 West Side Avenue Jersey City, New Jersey 07305 (800) 772-1213
Paterson Social Security Office 07505
200 Federal Plaza First Floor Paterson, New Jersey 07505 (800) 772-1213
Can a Social Security Lawyer Help with my COPD Claim in New Jersey?
COPD is wide-spectrum illness, meaning that it impacts individuals very differently. While one person might be able to continue in their field of employment, another person might be unable to get out of bed due to breathlessness and exhaustion. The only way that the SSA can know how much your COPD impacts your daily life is to review your medical records.
Perhaps the best thing that you can do to enhance your chances of an approval is to hire an experienced Social Security lawyer. Working with a disability lawyer will ensure that your application is complete, that all of your supporting medical documentation is submitted, and that any important deadlines are met.