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Can I get disability for emphysema?

Emphysema is a progressive disease of the lungs where there lung tissue which surrounds sacs or alveoli have been destroyed, no longer able to hold their shape when an individual breathes. Emphysema is generally caused by smoking, although there are other environmental factors which can contribute to the disease: pollution, age, secondhand smoke, fumes, dust, chemicals, and coal.

Many workers may have this condition for years without feeling too sick to work. Eventually, however, it is not unusual for emphysema to begin to interfere with daily activities making it difficult to stay focused and alert. Many workers may become short of breath, have difficulty talking, or have a racing heart. Other workers may find it difficult to lift heavy objects, stand or walk for long periods of time.

Workers who develop emphysema may also suffer from additional health conditions which make it difficult to work including severe heart conditions or a collapsed lung.

Winning Disability Benefits for Emphysema

The Social Security Administration has two ways of awarding Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance benefits: meeting a listing on the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments (also known as the Blue Book it is a list of all conditions and symptoms the SSA finds automatically disabling) or proving that you cannot work through a medical vocational allowance.

Meeting a Listing in the SSA Blue Book for Emphysema

Although the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not have a specific listing for emphysema on their SSA Listing of Impairments they will evaluate this condition and other types of breathing disorders under Listing 3.00 Respiratory System Impairments, Listing 3.02 Chronic Pulmonary Insufficiency.

To meet the listing for chronic pulmonary insufficiency you will need to take a pulmonary function test which is done through a spirometry which measures the FEV1 (refer to tables found in the SSA Listing of Impairments for specific measurements). Additional testing may also be required “to measure chronic impairment of gas exchange due to the clinically documented pulmonary disease.” These tests specifically measure your ability to absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide. The Social Security Administration also maintains tables which outline the measurements they find disabling.

Due to the complexity of the testing, you may need to consult with your pulmonologist or your disability lawyer to have them review the information with you and help you understand what information you will need to prove your are disabled or “meet a listing.”

Winning SSI or SSDI for Emphysema through a medical vocational allowance

If your condition does not meeting a listing on the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments you will have to prove that you do not have the residual capacity to perform your current job. If you can prove that you cannot work your previous job than the SSA will review your age, work history and education to determine if you could retrain for new work.

What types of medical information will you need to prove disability through a medical vocational allowance? You need specific medical evidence which identifies your physical limitations. For instance:

The more limitations you can prove the higher the chance that you can demonstrate to the Social Security Administration that you cannot work your current job or retrain for new work which can help you win disability benefits.
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