Social Security's disability insurance will pay a monthly benefit if you suffer from a chronic illness that prevents you from finding or keeping gainful employment. You pay for the insurance with your Social Security payroll taxes, which also go towards retirement benefits. The disability program recognizes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD as a disabling illness, but you must support your application with medical evidence and a doctor's opinion.
Qualifying for the Disability Program
If you suffer from debilitating COPD, and the illness prevents you from working, you have the option to file for Social Security disability benefits. You must be at least 18 years of age and otherwise eligible to take part in the Social Security insurance system. Social Security assigns a maximum four credits each year as you earn wages and submit payroll taxes. To qualify for disability benefits, you must have a minimum number of credits, which varies with your age. At age 50, for example, you need 28 credits to file a disability application.
Social Security Listings and COPD Applications
When Social Security reviews an application for benefits, it applies guidelines for your particular medical condition. In the case of COPD, for example, a disability approval requires that a medical doctor diagnose the condition, and that you submit to a lung function test, also known as a spirotemy, carried out by a physician acting as Social Security's consultant.
How COPD Tests Work
A spirotemy measures airflow with an FEV1, or forced expiratory value over one second. To carry out the test, the physician measures the quantity of air you exhale. Your FEV, measured in liters, must be lower than a certain value for your height. If you don't meet the listing standard, you can also qualify with a diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide or DLCO test, or with an ABG test, which measures the volume of arterial blood gases including oxygen and carbon dioxide. These tests measure the efficiency of your lungs in circulating certain compounds in and out of your body.
Doctor's Supporting Opinion
Disability applications require a doctor's diagnosis and/or a written opinion that you are unable to perform any job as a result of your medical condition. Social Security may also request a residual functional capacity assessment, or RFC, which is a standard form explaining the limits of your ability to sit, stand, crouch, lift and perform other basic physical functions, and your ability to do light, medium or heavy work. If you don't currently have a treating doctor, Social Security will arrange an appointment for an independent medical evaluation by a doctor of its choosing.
Approval and Appeals
If you are approved for disability, your benefits will continue until you reach your Social Security full retirement age, at which time your disability case closes and you begin drawing retirement benefits. If you are denied, you have the right to file a Request for Reconsideration, which is the first administrative review of the original decision. You may appeal a second denial with a Request for Hearing, which entitles you to a hearing before an administrative law judge, who will weigh all the evidence in the claim and make a final decision.