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How to Get Long Term Disability for COPD

Disability Due to COPD

Long Term Disability and COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as “COPD,” causes breathing difficulty and other serious symptoms that may result in short or long term disability. However, a COPD diagnosis will not automatically qualify you for short or long term disability benefits. For your COPD disability claim to succeed, you must first demonstrate to your insurance company how your COPD restricts your ability to perform the material duties of your occupation.


attorney experienced in short and long term disability claims can help you file for and win your short and/or long term disability benefits for COPD.

COPD Symptoms

If you file for disability due to COPD, you must inform your insurance company of your symptoms, their severity and frequency, and how they inhibit you from working.

COPD is a progressive lung condition typically caused by smoke exposure. COPD causes inflammation of the lungs that then reduces airways. COPD can cause respiratory problems such as:

  • Chronic coughing

  • Shortness of breath (usually exercised-induced in beginning stages, and then progressing over time)

  • Wheezing

  • Recurring lung infections

Other non-respiratory symptoms from COPD include:

  • Persistent fatigue

  • Swelling of lower extremities (legs, ankles, feet, etc.)

  • Unintentional weight loss

It is common for COPD patients to experience “exacerbations.” A COPD exacerbation is a flareup of symptoms, lasting anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks. During a COPD exacerbation, your airways narrow due to swelling. Mucus can build up in the airways as well,

causing more acute symptoms than usual. An exacerbation may be triggered by a lung infection, but they can also occur with no known cause. In severe cases, a COPD exacerbation will require antibiotics and/or hospitalization. While COPD is treatable, it is an incurable and progressive disease. Your symptoms will most likely increase in severity and frequency over time. For example, upon your diagnosis, you may only experience coughing fits or breathlessness after exerting yourself in physical activity. Over time, your coughing and shortness of breath may occur even at times of rest.

Complications Due to COPD

COPD can lead to complications in other bodily systems. COPD may increase your risk of cardiovascular issues (such as heart disease and heart attack), high blood pressure, lung cancer, and depression and/or anxiety.

Any of the listed resulting conditions can lead to short or long term disability depending on the nature and severity of your symptoms.

Inability to Work Due to COPD

The physical and cognitive symptoms of COPD are often a barrier to working. At any stage of COPD, you may struggle to continue performing your job duties. For example, chronic fatigue caused by COPD may wreak havoc on your ability to concentrate for long intervals or complete a full workday without excessive and disruptive breaks. Shortness of breath and chronic cough may severely limit your capacity for phone calls, meetings, and any physical functioning associated with your job, whether it be walking, standing, or sitting in one position for extended periods.

Regardless of whether your COPD is in an early stage or late stage, your symptoms may impact your ability to work enough to qualify you for short or long term disability insurance benefits. Receiving disability benefits will be a matter of demonstrating to your disability insurance company how COPD stops you from performing your occupational duties.

How We Prove Disability for COPD

Long Term Disability for Pulmonary Issues

As mentioned earlier, your COPD diagnosis will not guarantee your short or long term disability claim gets approved. Your insurance company will have many questions about your condition: How long ago were your diagnosed with COPD? What symptoms are you experiencing? How does your COPD stop you from working?

COPD is a progressive disease, meaning that your symptoms may have been manageable on the onset of your diagnosis, only to worsen to a point where you can no longer work. Your disability insurance company will want to know the tipping point – what happened with your COPD to make you no longer able to work now?

The experienced team at The Maddox Firm understands what proof your insurance company expects in order to approve your short or long term disability insurance claim. Below we will expand on different types of evidence you can submit to your disability insurance company in support of your COPD disability claim.

Proving Your COPD Disability with Medical Evidence

Insurance companies have a financial incentive to deny your COPD disability claim. Objective medical evidence is typically the most ironclad proof of your COPD diagnosis and disabling symptoms you can present to support your claim.

There are a number of medical tests that can provide evidence of your COPD diagnosis and symptoms. These tests can include:

  • CT scans, chest x-rays, and other imaging evidencing your COPD

  • Pulse oximeter readings showing decreased oxygen levels

  • Pulmonary function testing results (discussed more below)

  • Arterial blood gases (a blood test used to determine your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels)

When filing a COPD disability claim, one of your first steps should be collecting these medical records from your healthcare providers.