COPD May Constitute an Impairment for SSD Purposes

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Almost 1.2 million Floridians suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. COPD is an umbrella term that refers to a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make it difficult for an individual to breathe. Two of the most common conditions that make up COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by shawnzlea via flickr
Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by shawnzlea via flickr


In emphysema, the tiny air sacs (called alveoli) in an individual’s lungs become stretched out of shape or rupture. When these air sacs become damaged or destroyed, the lungs lose their elasticity and become unable to empty old air (carbon dioxide), thus preventing the body from taking in fresh air (oxygen). Common symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath/air hunger
  • wheezing
  • coughing
  • tightness in the chest area
  • barrel chest/distended chest
  • constant tiredness or fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty sleeping
  • morning headaches
  • weight loss
  • swelling of the ankles

Chronic Bronchitis

With Chronic bronchitis, the lining of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from the lungs, becomes permanently swollen (or inflamed). Common symptoms include:

  • cough with or without the production of mucus (sputum)
  • tiredness and fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain or tightness
  • fever or chills

Experts recognize that emphysema is a progressive disease, which means that it typically continues to get worse over time. Similarly, chronic bronchitis is a long-term condition that keeps coming back or never completely goes away.

Social Security Disability

Individuals with emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or other lung disease that falls under the heading of COPD may be eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits if they are unable to work. In order to be eligible for SSD benefits, an individual needs to establish that he or she is totally disabled. This is because the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not pay benefits for partial disability or short-term disability.

Under SSD rules, in order to be determined to be disabled for SSD purposes, an individual needs to show that he or she:

  1. cannot do work that he or she did before becoming disabled;
  2. cannot adjust to or perform another type of work because his or her medical condition; and
  3. has a disability that has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

Legal Help Preparing Your SSD Case

Social security law is complex and initial approval for benefits is low for individuals who prepare their own SSD case. An experienced Florida SSD attorney from Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, P.A. can help you gather important and relevant medical evidence to support a listing level approval or a medical vocational award of benefits. With regard to COPD, this may include medical information such as documentation of your current level of functioning and the frequency, severity, and duration of your COPD symptoms.

Medical support that may be used includes a complete medical history, physical examinations, chest x-rays or other radiologic imaging techniques (such as CT, MRI, or PET scans), and spirometric pulmonary function test. Documentation may include records from hospital, emergency facility, and physician visits, including the dates of treatment, clinical and laboratory findings, and the various treatments administered or attempted.

If your claim has already been denied, our trusted Florida disability attorneys can help you prepare an appeal. But, you must hurry, because you have only 60 days to appeal an SSD denial.

If you have questions about how we can specifically help you, call Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, P.A. today or use our convenient online contact form and we will promptly contact you.