Workers’ Compensation for COPDOctober 18, 2019
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease that affects about 15 million Americans, and experts believe it will be the third-leading cause of death by next year. Smoking can cause COPD, but genetics and exposure to fume, dusts, or gases at work can also be prominent factors. Smokers and those with asthma that are exposed to the additional risks are 12 times more susceptible to developing COPD. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, wheezing, abnormal breathing, and a sore throat. It can also lead to pulmonary heart disease, which may require medication, rehabilitation, and oxygen therapy.
COPD Disability Listing and Restrictions
To begin the process of qualifying for workers’ compensation, a worker must first receive a diagnosis and a lung function test. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has certain requirements, which adhere to their disability listing guidelines. Those that meet these may automatically qualify; others that do not meet the guidelines, but have COPD that reduces their breathing capacity, may still receive benefits.
The lung function test must be performed by an SSA-hired physician, and has to show significantly reduced airflow. It should be administered through an oxygen saturation test, a DLCO test, which diffuses capacity of the lungs for carbon monoxide; an arterial blood gases test; or a spirometry test. These tests can show the amount of oxygen in the blood, oxygen pressure, and the amount of air that can be exhaled. The SSA will also consider the number of hospitalizations within a year, along with the patient’s age, height, and gender.
It is also important to note that any employee reporting COPD must have the results of a physical exam and a pulmonary function test, a current treatment plan with prescriptions, a description of current symptoms, and a physician’s note reported within 12 months before they can be rated for benefits.
Reduced Work Capacity
Employees that do not meet requirements can still receive benefits if they can prove that their COPD affected their ability to work. The first step would be to contact a physician to submit a medical opinion to the SSA; this would include a description of the types of activities the person can do. The SSA would then determine the person’s residual functional capacity (RFC) report, which would detail the work they can perform. Some workers may be assigned to work sedentary RFC, which could lead to a reduced work capacity, such as working at a desk.
Other Occupational Respiratory Diseases
COPD may be considered an occupational respiratory disease, and there are many other types as well. These include silicosis, black lung disease, and asbestosis. COPD disability claims can be turned down, and one of the main causes is not enough medical evidence. Many employees end up appealing, even if their test numbers are not at the SSA levels for qualification. A knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer can be a valuable resource in these cases.
The Law Office of Deborah M. Truscello is a Trusted Workers’ Compensation Law Firm in Media Helping Clients with COPD Claims
If you need experienced legal guidance with a COPD claim, the Law Office of Deborah M. Truscello is a trusted workers’ compensation law firm in Media that can be your best resource. For a free consultation, complete an online form or call us at 610-892-4940. Located in Media, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Lancaster, Montgomery County, Norristown, Philadelphia, Reading, and West Chester.