Emphysema

A chronic, progressive disorder of the lungs, emphysema is an incurable ailment that impairs your ability to breathe. Over time, the disease scars the small air sacs in the lungs where carbon dioxide and oxygen are exchanged, which diminishes their capacity and performance. Pulmonologists measure the progression and severity of the condition with a four-stage classification system that determines your ability to forcefully exhale oxygen. While Stage 1, or mild, emphysema patients who have 80 percent or greater of their normal volume, Stage IV patients have less than 30 percent of normal volume.

Smoking and inhaling secondhand smoke or other pollutants like dust, fumes and gas increase the risk for developing this obstructive pulmonary disease. Other potential factors include asthma and allergies, which inflame and damage the lungs. Some people who develop the condition have no known risk factors.

In addition to medication and exercise regimens, clinicians help patients manage symptoms and preserve lung function with respiratory therapy and smoking cessation programs if applicable. If medical interventions are unsuccessful, some patients undergo surgery to remove nonfunctioning lung tissue or to receive a transplant.

What is SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) was designed to assist people like those with serious conditions, such as emphysema. First envisioned by the Social Security Administration (SSA) planners in the 1930s, this essential program was created to serve as a safety net to protect workers from the financial turmoil that typically occurs when they lose their ability to work. Introduced in the mid-1950s, the program helps workers whose earning potential is diminished due to a short-term or permanent disability. The federal government funds the program by deducting payroll taxes from your earnings as authorized by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act. Unlike its Social Security Supplemental Income counterpart, SSDI is not a needs-based program that scrutinizes your financial resources. The insurance program is also different from private disability insurance that you voluntarily purchase or workers’ compensation, which is limited to workplace injuries. Your work history and the mandatory payroll taxes that you paid into the program may entitle you to benefits that can help support your family and meet your financial obligations.

Getting SSDI for Emphysema

Dealing with a life-altering medical condition and financial uncertainty makes it difficult to navigate the complex process required to apply for SSDI benefits. Many SSDI candidates are confused and intimidated by the language and the amount of documentation that must accompany the application. In addition to your work history and proof of citizenship, you must provide documents that confirm your diagnosis and the treatments used to improve your condition. The SSA will compare your gross monthly earnings history to your current monthly earnings to determine whether emphysema has negatively affected your ability to work. The agency will also evaluate your application to verify whether your condition prevents you from participating in substantial gainful activity.

SSDI benefits can help you support your loved ones. Your application should also include information regarding family members who rely on your financial assistance, such as your spouse, minor children and parents. Children disabled before age 22 and secondary school students who are 18 to 19 years old should also be included on your application.

Getting Help from an Attorney

Many emphysema sufferers are unable to work because the debilitating condition makes it difficult to breathe, which causes extreme fatigue, insomnia and mental impairment. Some people assume that their inability to perform their current job ensures that the SSA will approve their claim. The SSA routinely denies initial SSDI claims and subsequent appeals because applicants fail to make a compelling case for benefits. Your file should include a written assessment from your primary health care provider that describes the mental and physical limitations that you are experiencing due to emphysema. The application should include clinical findings and your long-term prognosis.

Filing for SSDI benefits can be intimidating and time-consuming, especially when you have a chronic disease that threatens your life and the security of your family. Our team has the expertise required to help you navigate the complicated and ever-changing process of filing for disability benefits. You can have peace of mind and obtain the best result when you work with an attorney who understands the SSDI application process and stays abreast of the filing requirements. Do not allow the time-consuming and complex SSDI claims application process prevent you from seeking the benefits that you and your family deserve.

Ruth F. Kolb, Esquire has been practicing social security disability law since 2003 handling all levels of representation from initial claims through all stages of appeal.