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Does SSA Qualify COPD as a Disability?

If your COPD is severe and limits your ability to perform daily tasks, you may be eligible for disability benefits through the SSDI or SSI program. However, it’s important to note that not all cases of COPD result in disability and some individuals who have quit smoking may have undiagnosed COPD.

How Do I Get Approved for Benefits with COPD?

Social Security has a disability “listing” which outlines the criteria for automatic approval of disability for different chronic respiratory disorders, such as COPD. Meeting these criteria automatically qualifies you for benefits. However, if your condition is not severe enough to meet these requirements, you can still try to prove that your moderate COPD limits your ability to breathe and exert yourself to the extent that you are unable to work in any capacity.

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration if their lung function test results show very limited airflow. To meet the standard of disability, these tests must include a spirometry test measuring forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) and/or forced vital capacity (FVC), a lung diffusion test, an arterial blood gas test measuring oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood, or an oxygen saturation test (SpO2) taken during or after a six-minute walk. The SSA will use these results to determine whether someone with COPD meets the requirements of disability.

If the test results are higher than the listing requirements, meaning that COPD may be more moderate than severe, applicants might still qualify for benefits. In this situation, it is important to demonstrate that COPD has reduced breathing capacity to such an extent that there are no jobs a person can do or learn to do given their age, education and experience. To help prove the extent of the breathing difficulties, a doctor’s opinion should be presented to the SSA on the type of activities that can and cannot be done. This will allow them to assign a “residual functional capacity” (RFC) assessment stating what kind of work they are able to do based on their test results and doctor’s restrictions.

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June 12, 2023

Written by Leah Meyer