Emphysema is a form of chronic respiratory illness characterized by extreme shortness of breath. As this condition progressively worsens over time, it can render you unable to work. If your medical condition leaves you unable to hold down a job, you may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Unfortunately, the SSA does not specifically list emphysema as a medical condition it considers disabling. Instead, the SSA lumps it into a category for chronic respiratory disorders.
Because the SSA does not explicitly list emphysema, you may need a disability attorney in Pittsburgh to assist you in applying for benefits.
In Pittsburgh, you can meet with the disability lawyers of Berger and Green free of charge. In fact, we do not require any attorney’s fees or costs until we resolve your claim. Contact us today at 412-661-1400 to speak to a lawyer about how to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) for emphysema.
Is Emphysema a Disabling Medical Condition?
Emphysema is a chronic, progressive lung disease that occurs as the alveoli—or air sacs—in the lungs gradually rupture. This diminishes the surface area of the lungs that allow the body to absorb oxygen.
Some common symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath that gradually worsens over time;
- Decreasing tolerance for exercise or physical exertion;
- Bluish tinge to skin, fingernails, tongue, or lips—especially with exertion;
- Pursed lip breathing;
- Barrel chest;
- Persistent cough;
- Excessive mucous production in the lungs;
- Impaired mental function; and
- Increased irritability.
During the early stages of emphysema, you may not know you have a problem. As the disease progresses, you will become gradually less tolerant of exercise and exertion, becoming excessively winded with physical activity. Eventually, you will struggle to breathe even without exertion.
If your work involves any type of exertion, sustained movement, or strenuous activities, this condition can significantly decrease your productivity. Eventually, emphysema may render you totally unable to work.
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Can I Get Disability Benefits for Emphysema?
To evaluate and process disability claims, the SSA publishes uses a list of medical conditions and criteria to identify illnesses and conditions that qualify for benefits. The SSA lists these conditions in a publication called the Blue Book.
The Blue Book does not specifically list emphysema as an approved condition. Instead, it falls under the category of Adult Respiratory Disorders, Section 3.00, along with COPD and related conditions affecting the lungs.
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How Do I Meet the SSA’s Medical Criteria?
The Blue Book lists a complex set of lung capacity criteria that define the severity of eligible respiratory disorders. To obtain disability benefits for emphysema, you must provide medical documentation that your condition falls within these criteria ranges.
With your claim, you must submit records that include:
- A detailed medical history;
- Documentation of any related hospitalizations;
- X-rays, CT scans, and other imaging tests;
- Lung function testing, including FVC, FEV1, PEF, ABG, or DLCO;
- Other medical test results; and
- Treatment reports.
You may qualify for benefits if you have three or more recent emphysema-related hospitalizations in the past year, or if your lung function test results fall within the ranges specified in the Blue Book.
If you have questions about these complex criteria, call our office today. Our disability attorneys can help you understand how the SSA will evaluate your claim before you apply.
What If I Do Not Meet These Criteria?
If you do not meet the Blue Book criteria for emphysema, you may still qualify for benefits if you meet the SSA’s definition of disabled. To meet this definition, your condition must keep you from working for at least 12 months. If your doctor predicts it will last for 12 months or eventually lead to death, you may also meet the requirements to collect disability.
In that case, a residual functional capacity (RFC) opinion completed by your doctor may be helpful.
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Are There Other Criteria I Must Meet to Qualify for Disability?
The SSA also requires you to meet specific work history or economic criteria, depending on whether you are seeking Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
SSDI is an insurance program that draws its funding from payroll taxes. It is only available to disabled workers who have accumulated enough work credits to qualify.
To qualify for the SSI program, we will need to show the SSA you are a low-income individual with few personal assets. The SSA will look for proof that you earn less than the 2017 income limit of $735 per month and have less than $2,000 in assets. We can help you go through your finances to determine if you meet these limits or qualify for any exemptions or deductions that may help you win benefits for your emphysema.
Let a Pittsburgh Disability Lawyer Help With Your Disability Claim.
Because this condition has complex diagnostic criteria—and because obtaining SSA disability approval is challenging under almost any conditions—the SSA may deny your initial disability claim. The disability lawyers at Berger and Green can help.
We can help you understand if you qualify for disability based on your emphysema. Our attorneys understand what the SSA is looking for in a wining disability claim. We will help you apply for benefits, making sure you include the contact information of your doctors and treating physicians for the SSA. If you have already received a denial from the SSA, we can represent your case during the appeals process. We will do whatever we can to get you the disability benefits you deserve.
We would like to offer you a free consultation to explore your SSA disability claim for emphysema. If you choose to proceed, we will not require any costs or attorneys’ fees until we resolve your claim. Call 412-661-1400 today to learn more or to speak directly to one of our attorneys about your claim.