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What You Need to Know About Respiratory Disorders for Social Security Disability Claims

Respiratory Disorders are a type of illness that affect the lungs ability to give a human’s body the oxygen needed to function at full capacity. The lungs main function is to provide oxygen to the body with a secondary function such as removing carbon dioxide from the body, regulating body temperature and ensuring a balanced PH level in the body. If left untreated, lung disease can cause serious health complications and be fatal.

What are the Symptoms and Signs of Respiratory Disorders?

Symptoms of respiratory disorders include dyspnea (shortness of breath), chest pain, coughing, wheezing, sputum production, hemoptysis (coughing up blood from the respiratory tract), use of accessory muscles of respiration, and tachypnea (rapid rate of breathing).

Which Respiratory System Disorders Qualify For Social Security Disability?

When initially applying for Social Security Disability the severity of your condition and the impact it has on your day to day life is very important. In some cases, this is more important than the actual illness itself. Representatives from the Social Security Administration (SSA) use the Blue Book as their guideline for determining whether a person’s disabling condition is considered serious enough for complete disability. The blue book is broken down into sections which have a full overview of different body systems and their functions. The respiratory system disorders are found in the third section of the Blue book.

When the SSA looks into disability claims linked to Respiratory Disorders the SSA takes a few things into consideration:

  1. How long is the condition expected to last?
  2. How long have you had the condition for?
  3. What has your response to treatment been?

Because social security needs current and updated medical evidence to evaluate your claim it is important that you follow through with the recommended treatment throughout the disability claims process.

 What are the Respiratory Disorder Categories?

The Blue Book divides respiratory problems into a number of categories, including:

  • Asthma
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Chronic Pulmonary Insufficiency
  • Cor Pulmonale Secondary to Chronic Pulmonary Vascular Hypertension
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Lung Transplant
  • Pneumoconiosis
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Sleep Related Breathing Disorders

Other Conditions evaluated by the SSA under respiratory system disorders:

  • Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Chronic Restrictive Ventilatory Disease
  • Emphysema
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary Tuberculosis (TB)
  • Respiratory Failure

What documentation is needed to evaluate your respiratory disorder?

When filing a claim for Social Security disability benefits based on a respiratory condition, it is imperative that you supply evidence of your condition as it will determine whether you qualify for disability benefits.

Medical evidence is needed to document and assess the severity of your respiratory disorder. Medical evidence should include your medical history, physical examination findings, the results of imaging (see 3.00D3), pulmonary function tests (see 3.00D4), other relevant laboratory tests, and descriptions of any prescribed treatment and your response to it.

If you use supplemental oxygen, medical evidence is still needed to establish the severity of your respiratory disorder.

Imaging refers to medical imaging techniques, such as x-ray and computerized tomography. The imaging must be consistent with the prevailing state of medical knowledge and clinical practice as the proper technique to support the evaluation of the disorder.

Pulmonary function tests include spirometry (which measures ventilation of the lungs), DLCO tests (which measure gas diffusion in the lungs), ABG tests (which measure the partial pressure of oxygen, PaO2, and carbon dioxide, PaCO2, in the arterial blood), and pulse oximetry (which measures oxygen saturation, SpO2, of peripheral blood haemoglobin).

An important point to remember is that respiratory diseases often have a longer turnaround time as it takes time to establish the level of disability. You would need to take note of how your respiratory condition has affected you and your ability to work over the past year.

How are the effects of obesity considered when evaluating respiratory disorders?

Obesity is a medically determinable impairment that is often associated with respiratory disorders. Obesity makes it harder for the chest and lungs to expand, which can compromise the ability of the respiratory system to supply enough oxygen to the body.

The combined effects of obesity with a respiratory disorder can be greater than the effects of each impairment separately. Additional and cumulative effects of obesity are taken into account when determining whether you have a severe respiratory disorder.

How do we evaluate respiratory disorders that do not meet one of the listings?

These listings are only examples of common respiratory disorders that are considered severe enough to prevent you from doing any gainful activity. If your impairment(s) does not meet the criteria of any of these listings, we must also consider whether you have an impairment(s) that meets the criteria of a listing in another body system. For example, if your CF has resulted in chronic pancreatic or hepatobiliary disease, we evaluate your impairment under the listings in 5.00.

Qualifying with Respiratory Problems Using the Medical-Vocational Allowance

There is a chance that your medical condition does not meet the standard criteria for disability benefits under the blue book guidelines, however you could qualify under the medical-vocational allowance.

Medical-vocational allowance is a guideline that will determine whether you are able to work based on your condition. There are contributing factors the SSA will look at when evaluating your case.

  1. Your age
  2. Educational background
  3. Work Experience and work history
  4. Your residual function capacity (RFC) to determine whether you can perform the demands of your job. Your RFC establishes the maximum amount of work you can do given the limitations of your condition.

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If you have respiratory problems of any type which you believe may qualify for Social Security Disability, you should start the claims process sooner rather than later as respiratory claims often take a considerable amount of time to substantiate. At O’Connor Law PLLC, our Social Security Disability Attorneys have helped countless individuals obtain the benefits they need and deserve. Please contact our office today to schedule an initial free consultation to discuss your claim with a member of our legal team.

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