Will I Get Social Security Disability Benefits If I Have COPD?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is an umbrella term for diseases of the lungs that include emphysema and chronic bronchitis. COPD develops when the lungs and airways become irritated, inflamed, and ultimately, damaged. Both result in decreased airflow, more difficulty breathing, and always become progressively worse.

Will I Get Social Security Disability Benefits If I Have COPD?

COPD also adds to the heart’s burden, leading to pulmonary heart disease. Oxygen therapy, medications, and pulmonary rehabilitation are the main treatments available. While lung transplants are considered the “cure,” most patients aren’t healthy or strong enough to undergo the surgery.


The vast majority of COPD cases are from long-term tobacco smoking, either first-hand or second-hand. A few cases are due to workplace exposure to airborne substances, such as welding fumes, grain, flour and coal dust, cadmium dust, and fumes, among others. Smokers who experience these irritants may have an increased risk of developing COPD long before they would have with just smoking.

Most patients also have other conditions (called “comorbidities”) alongside COPD, including:

  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Obesity
  • Depression and other mental illness conditions

Should you become unable to work due to COPD, disability may be your next option.

Qualifying For SSDI With COPD

A person who is unable to work due to advanced COPD can qualify for SSDI. Like any disability, a medical diagnosis is not enough. You’ll need evidence to prove that your condition is serious enough to prevent you from working for at least 12 months.

The “blue book” requirements for COPD are:

  • A Forced Expiratory Volume One (FEV1) is equal to or lower to the minimum for your height. This is between 1.05 for five-foot individuals and 1.65 for six-foot individuals
  • A Gas Diffusion Capacity (DLCO) of a single breath under 10.5 mil/min/mm Hg or a low amount of oxygen dissolved in the blood either during rest or exercise, determined a low partial pressure of oxygen (PO2) and high partial pressure of carbon dioxide (PCO2).

Additional required medical evidence for COPD disability includes:

  • Physician’s records and notes
  • Results from diagnostic testing, such as:
    • Lung function tests i.e., Lung Diffusion Capacity
    • Imaging: MRIs, CT scans, chest X-Rays
    • Blood tests
    • Arterial blood gas analysis, a test that demonstrates how well your lungs intake oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide
    • Spirometry results or the amount of air you can force out when exhaling), which includes the FEV1 reading

If you can show that your conditions are severe enough, you may qualify even without meeting the blue book listing. You’ll need to show that COPD prevents you from earning a minimum monthly income. The SSA will review your claim and decide upon a “Residual Functioning Capacity” (RFC). It can then approve you for a medical-vocational allowance.

Social Security also considers your age, past work history and experience, and age when making any decision. Additionally, you’ll need enough Social Security “work credits” to qualify for SSDI for any condition. If you do not, you will likely qualify for SSI instead.

Houston Attorney For SSDI

Applying for SSDI is a difficult and complex process. When you work with an experienced disability law firm, your application will be completed correctly the first time. You’ll have a better chance of being awarded the benefits you deserve and avoiding a long appeals process.

We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians get their disability benefits. The Herren Law Firm in Houston, TX can assist with your application, appeals, and records gathering to prove your case, and win your claim. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation and no up-front fees, and we only collect a fee if we win your case.

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