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COPD and Disability Benefits

  • Published: 2010-10-14 (Revised/Updated 2013-06-17) : Author: Allsup
  • Synopsis: For those with severe COPD who can no longer work Social Security Disability Insurance becomes an important financial option.

Main Document

"Medical treatment has a critical role in someone's application for Social Security disability benefits"

Allsup Outlines Concerns For Those Coping with COPD and Seeking Disability Benefits.

More than 12 million people are diagnosed with COPD; Allsup advises representation to receive benefits more quickly with expert help

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a leading cause of death, illness and disability in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Early detection of COPD may alter its course and progress. But for thousands with severe COPD who can no longer work, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) becomes an important financial option, according to Allsup, which represents tens of thousands people nationwide in the SSDI application process each year.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute reports that more than 12 million people are diagnosed with com [COPD, and an additional 12 million may have COPD and not know it. In addition, 8 million cases of hospital outpatient treatment or treatment by personal physicians were linked to COPD in 2000.

COPD refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems, according to the CDC. The disease category includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis and some cases of asthma. Typically, the disease is caused by long-term smoking and can be prevented by not smoking or quitting soon after someone starts. Lung damage can't be reversed, so treatment focuses on controlling symptoms and minimizing further damage. Treatment requires a careful and thorough evaluation by a physician.

"Medical treatment has a critical role in someone's application for Social Security disability benefits," said Ed Swierczek, senior claims representative at Allsup. "Documenting the existence of the disease or impairment is important, but it's one of several factors evaluated with an SSDI application."

When COPD is severe, shortness of breath and other symptoms of COPD can get in the way of even the most basic tasks, such as doing light housework, taking a walk, washing and dressing. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a medical listing for COPD to determine if someone is disabled and qualifies for Social Security disability benefits.

SSDI is a mandatory, tax-funded, federal insurance program designed to provide individuals with income if they are unable to work for 12 months or longer because of a severe disability, or if they have a terminal condition. Individuals must have paid FICA taxes to be eligible. Find more information on Social Security disability benefits at

"If SSA examiners determine someone does not meet the COPD listing, then additional factors are examined," Swierczek said. "Social Security disability examiners will evaluate the effects of the disease on your abilities and daily functioning, plus they review work history and education as part of the adjudication process."

The process of applying for SSDI benefits is complex, and it can be difficult to receive benefits. Two-thirds of initial SSDI applications typically are denied, which is why representation such as Allsup can be critical to someone with COPD. Allsup helps more people to receive their benefits with their initial application when compared to the national average, which helps applicants avoid a disability hearing before an administrative law judge. Find out more by reading, "Six Advantages of Representation When You First Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits."

For COPD sufferers, the most important aspect of treatment is avoiding tobacco smoke and removing other air pollutants from the patient's home or workplace, according to the CDC. Symptoms such as coughing or wheezing can be treated with medication. Respiratory infections should be treated with antibiotics, if appropriate. Patients who have low blood oxygen levels in their blood often are given supplemental oxygen.

If you have questions about SSDI eligibility or applying with COPD, contact the Allsup Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 279-4357 for a free evaluation of your situation.

Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs nearly 700 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, visit

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