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Lung Disease and SSA Disability Benefits

Respiration can be impaired in two ways: the claimant has a condition which reduces the amount of air that reaches the lungs or the lung tissue of the claimant itself is damaged or not functioning and gas exchange is lowered.
Enlarged view of lung tissue showing the diffe...

Conditions which affect the process of the gas exchange include obstructive lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD which can include conditions such as cystic fibrosis, bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and asthma.

Winning SSI and SSDI Disability Benefits for Lung Disease

The Social Security Administration has two ways of awarding Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI). Claimants can either win SSI or SSDI by meeting a listing outlined on the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments (also known as the Blue Book) or they can prove they no longer have the residual functional capacity to work through a medical vocational allowance.

Meeting a Listing in the SSA Blue Book for Lung Disease

A lung disease which is considered a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is evaluated under Listing 3.00 Respiratory System Impairments, Listing 3.02 Chronic Pulmonary Insufficiency.

The listing is complex and can be difficult to understand. You may benefit from discussing the listing either with your cardiac pulmonologist or a disability lawyer to review your medical records and ensure you have the information needed to meet a listing.

Under this listing the SSA will expect that you have taken a pulmonary function test to test your pulmonary deficiency. This testing is done through a spirometry which measures the FEV1 (refer to tables found in the SSA Listing of Impairments for specific measurements). 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.

This listing has three parts: A, B, and C. If you have a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease it will be evaluated under Part A; chronic restrictive ventilator disease is evaluated under Part B and Chronic impairment of gas exchange is evaluate under Part C.

Winning SSI or SSDI for Lung Disease through a medical vocational allowance

Claimants who have a severe health condition which does not meet a listing in the SSA Listing of Impairments may be able to prove that they do not have the residual capacity to work (medical vocational allowance). Through the medical vocational allowance process the SSA will review your age, work history and education to determine if you could work your current job, past job or retrain for new work.

Older claimants will have an easier time proving they cannot work. Additionally, claimants who have multiple health conditions such as COPD, high blood pressure and diabetes could prove that all of their conditions in their totality do not leave them with the residual capacity to work, even though one condition alone did not “meet or exceed” a listing and they can also be awarded SSI or SSDI.

To win benefits through a medical vocational allowance your medical records should clearly outline your limitations to perform work functions including:

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