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Can Lung Diseases Cause Disability?

In the USA, there is a specific system in place to award disability benefits to those who have a qualifying disabling condition.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether an applicant is disabled and, therefore, eligible for benefits. In order to be found disabled at any step in the process, an applicant must show that their medical condition meets or equals a listing in the SSA’s “Blue Book” of disabling conditions, and that they are unable to return to any prior relevant work because of their condition.

Lung diseases are not specifically addressed in the Blue Book, but there is an SSA disability listing under section 3.0 that refers to respiratory disorders. For example, listing 3.03 covers chronic respiratory disorders, such as COPD, emphysema, and bronchiectasis.

To be eligible, you will have to show extensive medical records documenting your diagnosis, treatment, and symptom history. Additionally, you will need to provide evidence such as a pulmonary function test (PFT) or arterial blood gas (ABG) study that demonstrates your condition has significantly impacted your ability to breathe.

What does the SSA consider while reviewing a claim?

When you apply for Social Security disability benefits because of a lung disease, the SSA will review some of the following crucial points:

  • The severity of your respiratory illness and its impact on your day-to-day activities.
  • Whether your disorder has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months.
  • Whether you are engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA).

If you meet these basic requirements, the SSA will further evaluate your case by determining whether your lung disorder meets or equals a listing in the Blue Book. If your disorder meets the SSA’s definition and criteria, you will likely be approved for disability benefits.

Lung Diseases and Related Tests

The number of claims for SSD based on lung disease has increased in recent years as the population ages. In fact, it is one of the most common conditions for which people seek benefits.

The SSA Blue book lists several types of lung disorders under section 3, Respiratory System. Each disease has its own set of symptoms, diagnostic criteria, and treatment options. The SSA will consider all of this information when making a decision on your claim. These diseases include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), including emphysema and bronchiectasis
  • Asthma
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Lung cancer
  • Lung transplantation

The listings for these disorders are based on the effects of the disease on forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1). The SSA will consider your FEV1 reading, along with your age, weight, and height to determine if your lung disease meets or equals a listing. In order to get an accurate reading of your FEV1, your doctor will likely order a pulmonary function test (PFT). This test is the most common way to measure how well your lungs are working.

In order to be approved for benefits, you will need to provide medical evidence of your lung disease, such as medical records from your treating physician, hospital records, test results, treatment notes, and progress notes. The SSA will also consider your testimony about your symptoms and how they impact your ability to work.

The SSA will also consider your testimony and that of your friends, family, and co-workers to get a complete picture of how your lung disease affects your ability to function on a daily basis. It is important to have as much evidence as possible to support your claim.

If you are seeking SSD benefits because of a lung disease, hire a disability attorney. Visit a website to contact a disability attorney, and we would be happy to review your claim.

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