Over 30 million Americans currently live with a form of COPD. For some, this diagnosis means minor, manageable symptoms. For others, COPD results in severe difficulties that can hinder your ability to work or live your daily life.
Applying to receive benefits for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a time consuming process that requires you to understand every element of the disability application to mitigate stress and anxiety. It is typically the fear of the unknown that causes many applicants to make critical mistakes completing the disability application.
Mistakes lead to quick denials issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA) because of the rigid guidelines built into the disability application process. One of the most common mistakes made by Social Security disability applicants is to submit an application before the mandatory 12 consecutive months timeline established by the SSA.
If your COPD leaves you in need of financial assistance, then Social Security disability benefits may be for you. Created to help people and families in need, Social Security provides monthly financial benefits to those who need help with their disabilities. Below are the best tips for applying for benefits with COPD.
Tip #1: Schedule an appointment to receive up-to-date lung function tests.
When a person applies for disability benefits, a diagnosis of COPD alone is not enough to medically qualify. The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires applicants to show extreme limitations in lung capacity in order to qualify for benefits. These limitations are demonstrated using a variety of lung function tests, all of which are beneficial for applicants to receive. If just one of these tests shows a severe limitation in lung function, then it is very likely you will qualify for benefits:
- A spirometry test. Measures your lung’s ability to expel air when you breathe. This is determined using FEV value, or “forced expiratory volume”, and is the most common test that people with COPD receive.
- A DLCO test. Measures the amount of gas diffusion in your lungs to see how much oxygen passes through your blood.
- An ABG test. Measures the partial pressure of oxygen and CO2 in the blood.
COPD is severely limiting. While you can find these charts on your own online, it is best to consult a doctor to have them determine which tests you may qualify with.
Tip #2: Understand the SSA Blue Book
The SSA Blue Book lists the criteria for the symptoms triggered by a large number of diseases and illnesses. Officially titles the “Disability Evaluation Under Social Security,” the Blue Book lists a medical condition such as COPD and associated the symptoms the agency needs to see, before it approves a Social Security disability application.
The online version of the Blue Book receives frequent updates to accommodate the symptoms changes issued by the medical community. You can also receive a hard copy version of the Blue Book, but it takes several weeks for the heavily demanded government manual to arrive through the United States Postal Service.
The SSA medical guide represents the most important resource for agency officials to determine the validity of your COPD disability benefits application.
Tip #3: Compile a list of current and previous treatments you have used for your COPD.
Doctors treat COPD differently depending on the severity of a patient’s case. People with minor COPD can typically carry on without regular medication and are prescribed inhalers for occasional flare-ups. Those with severe COPD, however, require more regular treatment and medication. Showing the SSA that you have a history of this more proactive treatment is a good way to demonstrate the severity of your condition. Things like long-lasting bronchodilators or inhaled steroids are good indicators of more severe COPD. In addition, any medications of treatments that you’ve tried which don’t help can also support your case, and should be listed along with current treatment methods.
Tip #4: Determine if you may qualify for a medical vocational allowance.
It is very possible that a person with COPD may face daily challenges with their diagnosis, yet not qualify with any of the methods listed above. However, it is still possible in some cases for an applicant to qualify. Medical vocational allowances make it possible for people with severe diagnoses to qualify for disability benefits, even if they don’t meet a listing. This is done by proving that your diagnosis prevents you from earning income through any work which you’ve been trained in your life to do. For example, a person doing warehouse work may find it impossible to return after a diagnosis of COPD because of the physical nature of their job.
If you can demonstrate that your work experience leaves you unable to provide for yourself with COPD, even though you don’t meet a specific listing, then it is possible to receive disability benefits.
Tip #5: Completing a Social Security Disability Application
Disability applicants need to keep one thing in mind when completing the comprehensive form. Take your time a triple check the application to prevent errors.
Like the teachers that admonished us to carefully complete tests, the same attention to detail mindset must be used for completing the Social Security disability application. Just one minor mistake can lead to the SSA denying benefits that that you deserve.
Another important part of a disability application is the medical evidence you provide to bolster your claim. Although sending as much medical documentation as possible should make for a stronger claim, you want to make sure the medical documentation is relevant to your COPD diagnosis.
Because COPD can be misdiagnosed as another type of respiratory ailment, it is essential that a highly rated physician make the official diagnosis. Medical evidence to include with your disability application includes testing data and what you have undergone as far as a rehabilitation program.
Contacting a Social Security Attorney or Advocate
If you feel applying for disability benefits may be right for you, consider contacting a disability attorney today. Even slight mistakes on an application, from missing documents to typos, can disqualify an applicant from receiving the benefits they deserve. With an attorney’s help, you can leave the legal requirements, organization, and follow-up reporting to someone with true experience in the area. Even better, attorneys or advocates are only allowed to take payment from you unless they win your case.
The Social Security disability claim process can take a considerable amount of time. By working with an experienced Social Security lawyer, you can speed up the process by preventing mistakes made on the disability application.
It can take several months to hear back from the SSA, but your Social Security attorney will stay in touch with agency to provide updates about the status of your claim. Your Social Security lawyer can also help you gather the medical evidence required to present a convincing case.
For the best chance at receiving disability benefits for your COPD, consider a free consultation with a disability attorney today.