Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may be unable to work because of their disease and its related complications. Patients who find themselves unable to work because of their chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may qualify for long term disability (LTD) benefits. The insurance company will review their claim to see if they qualify under the conditions of that plan.
What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also referred to as COPD, is a progressive and chronic inflammatory disease that causes deterioration of the lungs. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis also fall under the umbrella of COPD.
COPD is generally caused by exposure to irritants, most commonly cigarette smoke or harmful gasses. In rare cases, some people may have a genetic variant (alpha-1-antitrypsin or AAT deficiency) that can result in a diagnosis of COPD. Adults with asthma are also as much as 12 times more likely to develop COPD than those who do not have the condition.
Symptoms of COPD often include gasping, wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing. Treatment for COPD includes oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation, and various medications, such as steroid inhalers.
How Does COPD Cause Disability?
COPD is generally considered treatable if caught early enough, and patients can turn to medications and lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and avoiding irritants to manage their symptoms.
However, in more advanced stages of the disease, patients may incur irreversible and severe lung damage that makes it difficult to breathe and exert one’s self. When one’s lung function is low and progressively deteriorating, it can make it impossible to work or carry out tasks of everyday living. If a person’s COPD is severe enough, he or she may ultimately be deemed unable to work and eligible for long term disability benefits.
Evidence to Support Disability for COPD
To qualify for long term disability benefits, you should produce evidence such as a lung function test performed by a consulting doctor to show very limited airflow. Specifically, a spirometry test documenting your FEV1 value (your forced expiratory volume in one second, meaning the amount of air you can exhale in one second) should show significant limitations.
Alternatively, if you do not have a problem with air flowing in or out of your lungs (in other words, your FEV1 value is too high), but your lungs still have a problem oxygenating your blood, you may qualify for benefits with a poor DLCO (diffusing capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide) score or ABG (arterial blood gas values of oxygen and carbon dioxide) test score. A sample low DLCO score is one that is less than 10.5 ml/min/mm Hg or less than 40% of the predicted normal value for your race. Or, your ABG test values may be low (at rest or exercising).
Reduced Capacity for Work
You may qualify for long term disability benefits if you can show that your COPD has reduced your breathing capacity to such an extent that you cannot hold down a job. To show that your breathing capacity and ability to exert yourself are so low that you cannot work, you should ask your doctor to provide a medical opinion on what kinds of activities you can and cannot do (such as lifting any more than 10 pounds, walking no more than a half-hour at a time, and no exposure to dust or fumes).
The insurance company will give you an Attending Physician’s Statement (APS), also called a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment, stating the type of work you can do (sedentary work, light work, medium work, or heavy work) based on your breathing test results and your doctor’s restrictions.
Having Multiple Medical Problems
The vast majority of patients with COPD have other serious medical problems as well. For example, many people with COPD suffer from coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity, as well as suffering from mental issues such as depression. When you have multiple medical conditions that limit your ability to work, you have a better chance of qualifying for benefits.
Work with an Experienced Long-Term Disability Insurance Attorney to Ensure You Get the Benefits You Deserve
Your best chance of having a long term disability case approved because of COPD comes by working with an experienced LTD Disability lawyer.
Your long term disability attorney will be familiar with how insurance providers handle COPD claims and will help you prepare your application and collect essential evidence. It’s important to note that your long term disability attorney does not get paid until you do, so you can proceed with your case without fear of upfront legal bills or costs.
If you’d like to speak to one of our national long term disability insurance attorneys about your disability relating to COPD and how it may be impacting your ability to work, contact us at (888) 321-8131 to schedule a consultation. We can help you evaluate your claim to determine if you will be able to access long term disability benefits and how to move forward with the process.