Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): How to Qualify for Social Security Disability

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, refers to a collection of lung diseases characterized by obstructed airflow making breathing difficult. The most common diseases are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Both cause excessive inflammatory processes that eventually lead to abnormalities in lung structure and both are progressive conditions that deteriorate over time. COPD symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing. In addition, COPD adds to the work of the heart and can cause pulmonary heart disease. Treatment for COPD can include oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation, and various medications.

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The Social Security Administration has an impairments listing manual (called the blue book) which includes an official disability listing for COPD. COPD is evaluated under Listing 3.02 for chronic pulmonary insufficiency and outlines specific criteria. If your COPD condition meets, or is equivalent to 3.02, you can automatically qualify for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

Listing 3.02(A) requires a spirometry test which shows your FEV1 (volume of air exhaled in one second) is equal or less than a given amount depending on your height. Table I in the listing states, for example, that a person who is 5’5″ meets the listing with an FEV1 of 1.25 or below. Those 6’0″ and over must have an FEV1 of no more than 1.65.

Listing 3.02(B) references chronic restrictive ventilatory disease.  This is marked by decreased lung volume.  A spirometry test can also be utilized to meet this listing.  If your FVC (forced vital capacity) is less than or equal to the amounts in Table II of the listing, you will meet the requirements of the listing.

Listing 3.02(C) involves claimants whose lungs cannot properly oxygenate their blood. The important test results here are the DLCO (diffusing capacity of lungs for carbon monoxide), the PO2 (pressure of oxygen in arterial blood), and the PCO2 (pressure of carbon dioxide in arterial blood).

If your condition is not severe enough to meet the requirements of listing 3.02, you may still be able to prove that your COPD has reduced your breathing capacity to such an magnitude that there are no jobs you can do, or at least no jobs that you know how to do, given your age, education, and experience.

Premier Disability Services, LLC has extensive experience assisting claimants who suffer from COPD obtain Social Security Disability benefits.  If you suffer from COPD and you are unable to work, please contact our office for a free evaluation.