Even if you quit smoking years ago or never smoked at all, you may have recently noticed difficulty breathing. In fact, the wheezing and tightness in your chest may have concerned you enough to seek medical attention, especially if you are finding it more difficult to stay on your feet or move around at work like you need to.
If your North Carolina doctor diagnosed you with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it may have come as a shock. COPD can be emphysema, chronic bronchitis or a combination of both. It is progressive, which means it will continue to worsen as time passes. Whether you are in the early stages or your symptoms are well advanced, your ability to work may be impaired, and you may be ready to consider applying for Social Security Disability benefits.
Living with COPD
Depending on the progression of lung obstruction, your doctor may have informed you which stage of COPD you are currently in. You may be able to remain in that stage for some time, or you may quickly progress to the next more critical stage. In either case, you may be able to continue working with certain accommodations.
If your COPD symptoms qualify as a disability, the law requires your employer to make reasonable adaptations, such as reserving a closer parking space for you, giving you a more flexible work schedule or allowing you to work from home. However, as your condition worsens, you may find it more difficult to breathe after any normal activity required by your job.
Seeking SSD benefits
You may qualify for SSD benefits under these conditions:
- You are unable to earn over $1,000 a month.
- You have already been disabled or expect your COPD to prevent you from working for 12 months or longer.
- You have qualifying documentation from a doctor about your condition.
This documentation includes the results of any diagnostic tests and lab work, as well as treatments your doctor has tried and information about how well you responded to those treatments. Nevertheless, the Social Security Administration may require you to meet with another doctor for additional evidence of your COPD disability.
Applying for SSD can be complicated and requires gathering a substantial amount of evidence and paperwork. The SSA takes its time evaluating the proof you submit, which means it may be several months before they reach a decision. It is better not to wait too long to begin the process of applying for benefits, and many find the assistance of an attorney helps them get through the process with success.