According to the National Emphysema Foundation, about 3.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with emphysema. The disease is associated with lung conditions that affect breathing and cause associated chest problems. Treatment may slow the progression of your symptoms, but the damage to your lungs cannot be reversed. Because it an ailment without a cure, it is often categorized as a disability when symptoms and/or treatments affect an individual’s ability to earn an income. Those who are unable to work due to their condition may qualify for long-term disability (LTD) benefits from an insurance company or Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. Continue reading to learn more about how you can support your disability case.
Emphysema is a lung condition that affects the alveoli, which are air sacs in the lungs, causing shortness of breath. Progressively, these air sacs’ inner walls will weaken and rupture, resulting in larger air spaces, unlike the many tiny air spaces of a healthy person.
Because of the decreased air surface in the lungs, less oxygen is absorbed into the bloodstream, leading to low oxygen levels. During the process of inhaling and exhaling, the person experiences difficulties. That is, the air sacs aren’t functioning correctly and old air (and carbon dioxide) gets trapped within the lungs. This prevents the entry of oxygen-rich air into the lungs, and this is when an episode of shortness of breath occurs.
In most cases, people with emphysema also suffer from chronic bronchitis. This is another lung problem characterized by the inflammation of tubes within the lungs that carry air and thick mucus, which causes the affected people to have persistent coughs. Those who suffer from both emphysema and chronic bronchitis are considered to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Common Causes and Symptoms
Tobacco and marijuana smoking and inhaling chemical fumes and dust, including air pollution, have been found to cause emphysema. Risk factors often revolve around smoking, age, occupational exposure to fumes, dust, secondhand smoke, and indoor and outdoor pollution. Though rare, it can sometimes result from an inherited protein deficiency that protects elastic lung structure. This condition is referred to as alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency emphysema.
The primary symptom is shortness of breath that begins gradually and worsens over time. Most people suffer for several years before noticing the signs. The best way to reduce the effects of this disease is to reduce activities that trigger difficulty breathing. Eventually, patients will experience difficulty breathing even when at rest. If your symptoms leave you unable to work you may qualify for long-term disability benefits.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosing emphysema involves several tests that are essential to distinguish it from other lung problems. First, your physician will enquire about your medical history and recommended specific tests. You will likely undergo a chest X-ray to rule out other causes of shortness of breath. You can also expect a blood test to measure the level of oxygen in your bloodstream. Lastly, you will undergo a lung function test before your doctor confirms your diagnosis.
Emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease have no cure, but your doctor will recommend treatment options to alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Common treatments include bronchodilators, inhaled steroids, and the use of antibiotics. Besides, there are therapy treatments such as pulmonary rehabilitation, nutrition therapy, and supplementary oxygen that can improve lung function. Your doctor may suggest a particular surgery; lung transplant or lung volume reduction surgery for severe conditions. Your doctor may also recommend that you:
· Exercise regularly
· Stop smoking tobacco and marijuana.
· Avoid respiratory irritants such as certain perfumes and incense.
· Protect yourself against cold air
· Get suitable vaccinations
Eligibility for Disability Benefits
Most workers will qualify for disability insurance benefits and/or SSD benefits. If you have a group or individual insurance policy and you meet the policy’s terms and conditions, you could receive a percentage of your salary from the insurance company each month. The Social Security Administration also offers a type of disability insurance benefit. If your condition prevents you from working for 12 months or more you may also qualify to receive SSD benefits.
Here are steps to qualify for long-term disability or SSD benefits. The process of qualifying for benefits can be difficult for some individuals:
· Submit Complete Medical Records
You need to begin by submitting your medical records. These documents should include diagnostic results from physical exams, blood and laboratory tests, and other tests. Including these tests, coupled with recommendations from your physician, are enough to prove your disability.
· Prove Your Inability to Work
Now you need to connect your condition with the inability to complete your work-related duties. Here, you need to prove that the symptoms you are experiencing hinder you from performing your job. It is essential to ask your doctor to provide a well-detailed letter about your limitations depending on the symptoms. Written opinions will provide first-hand data about your condition and it helps in detailing your inability to work.
Long-Term Disability Benefits
People who qualify for long-term disability benefits may be eligible to receive these payments for an amount of time specified in the insurance policy, usually 24 months or until retirement age. However, you need to continually demonstrate that you meet the definition of disability as defined in your disability insurance policy. You can achieve this by showing that you not only have emphysema but also explaining how your symptoms impact your work.
You should also note that disability insurance plans usually have a waiting period between several weeks and months before you’re eligible to receive the benefits. A short-term disability policy can help bridge the gap between when you are no longer able to work and when your LTD benefits begin.
Social Security Disability Benefits
In order for the SSA to approve a disability claim, you or your disability lawyer must demonstrate that your conditions prevent, or are expected to prevent you from working for 12 months or longer.
How A Long-Term Disability Attorney Can Help
Once you are diagnosed you may qualify for long-term disability benefits, but filing disability claims can be tricky. This is where an experienced and professional long-term disability attorney comes in handy. You do not need a lawyer to start the claim process, but it is advisable to hire an attorney sooner to maximize the chances of success.
Mainly, filing for an LTD claim with an employer-provided group coverage can make the process hectic. For instance, missing even a single deadline or filling forms improperly can jeopardize the entire process. But with a disability lawyer, you can prevent such cases.
What A Long-Term Attorney Does for You
When your doctor diagnoses you with emphysema, filing for long-term disability insurance benefits from your insurance company is your next step in the disability claims process. Hiring an LTD attorney at the beginning is not essential, but may help make the process relatively seamless. That said, here is how an attorney can help you:
· Prepare Your Claim File
Though it is difficult to introduce new evidence once your file a lawsuit with your insurer, an attorney can help you prepare adequately in a federal court. An LTD attorney will stack the available evidence, including any notes from your doctor, test results, vocational evaluations, and any other specific information related to your condition to build a sound defense. Sequentially, you get a claim file containing the necessary evidence to support your claim.
· Hire Vocational Experts
Regardless of your occupation, emphysema can affect your work. As to prove this during the case, an attorney can help you hire the right vocation expert within your work area. Such individuals will testify about your career needs, including the limitation of working with emphysema. This provides new evidence that helps you get approved sooner.
· Represents You Fully
Besides developing persuasive shreds of evidence, an attorney will represent you in and out of the court. That is, an LTD attorney will negotiate with your insurer and other involved parties on your behalf. More so, the attorney will file your applications and appeals on time, engage in settlement negotiations and file a lawsuit.
Emphysema can result in several health problems, which also affect an individual’s work. With finances compromised due to the inability to work, filing a long-term disability claim for emphysema becomes the only option. Yet, filing for these benefits is difficult for most people, but a disability attorney can provide the needed help. Choosing the right disability lawyer tends to offer higher chances for getting approved sooner.
Contact the Ortiz Law Firm For Help With Your Disability Claim
Many people are wrongfully denied long-term disability and Social Security Disability benefits, but the fight is not over. If you need to appeal a denial, start the process as soon as possible, as you only have a limited time to appeal. You can provide your contact information and tell us about your case using our Contact page, or you can call Ortiz Law Firm at (888) 321-8131 and schedule a free consultation to tell us about your case.