Can I Apply for Disability if I Have COPD?
Last updated: February 2023
I didn’t answer that question fully in the first article. When I applied for disability in 2011, the main requirement for someone with COPD was an FEV1 of 40%.
Of course, there were other factors, but that was the one I was focused on. When I was first diagnosed, my FEV1 was 36%.
Here is how my journey went, and then I will move on to the qualifications they look for starting in 2023. I applied for disability the day after my last day of work. That was March 1, 2011.
Approval after disability denials
It took quite a while to hear from them. Finally, when I did, it was denied. Denied? I would have three denials until I finally got a lawyer.
I should've just done that. I hear that almost everyone who has a lawyer gets accepted on the first try.
The reason that I waited for the other denials is that I got free help from a lawyer for those with rare diseases. Having Alpha-1 is how I qualified for that. Anyway, you had to be denied before they could help.
Finally, after so many years and so many denials, I was approved for disability benefits. Technically, I could have and should have fought for pay for all of those back years. None of my health records changed in all of those years.
So what made the difference for the denial? Maybe it was having the lawyer there for that hearing. Who knows? From the advice of my lawyer, he said we could fight if you want, and I will be there for you, but this could take even longer for your disability, and you won't get anything until that is settled.
What? This all seemed crazy to me, but I needed the money now. We were behind on bills, still living in my parent's home, and still needed insurance.
So, in late 2014, almost four years later, I got my disability. You usually have a 2-year waiting period until you get your medicare insurance, but I was fortunate that they went back for that, so I got my insurance immediately as well.
That was a hard 3+ years that took a lot of hard work, time, energy, and anxiety from us.
Applying for disability benefits
I think if you have the right doctor who fills out your disability the first time that it would save a lot of hassle. Everything has to be worded just right, or it gets denied.
The place to look that will show what they are looking at qualifying can be found on the ss.gov page; then, look up social security bluebook, which will give you a list of diseases to look up there. From there, you will see where to find lung diseases.
Some documentation that you may need for qualification:
- Medical evidence to document and assess the severity of your respiratory disorder
- If you use supplemental oxygen, they will still need medical evidence to establish the severity of your respiratory disorder
- Imaging refers to medical imaging techniques, such as x-ray and computerized tomography
- Pulmonary function tests, which include spirometry
- DLCO test results, if available
- Regular and Exercise ABG tests, if available
- Recent pulse oximetry readings
Those are just some qualifications. There are many more, but this will give you a start.
There is also a questionnaire on the SSI page you can fill out and it will give you an idea if you may qualify.
In conclusion, I will say that if you meet this criterion and have 40 work credits, 20 of which were earned in the last ten years, ending with the year your disability begins. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.
I hope this has helped answer some questions that you may have had about disability.
Please feel to add any tips or questions or share your thoughts below.
Do you feel comfortable asking your doctor questions about your COPD?