Getting Long-Term Disability (LTD) Benefits for COPD
COPD, or “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” is a chronic breathing disease that affects the lungs. This disease may start with very mild or nonexistent symptoms but does get worse over time.
When you receive a COPD diagnosis, you may get overwhelmed and unsure of what to do. COPD can become a very debilitating disease that can make it nearly impossible to work or do everyday activities, such as walking or cooking. Therefore, you may have to file for long-term disability (LTD) benefits. While you can do this process on your own, it is beneficial to contact a long-term disability lawyer to assist you with the process.
The attorneys at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick may be able to help you with your long-term disability claim. Call us today at (800) 544-9144 for a free consultation with a member of our team.
An Overview of COPD
COPD, a highly progressive disease, is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Many people, upward of sixteen million, live with this disease every day. There is no cure for COPD, so making lifestyle changes and taking medication is crucial to mitigating its affects.
Less air flows in and out of the airways of the lungs when someone suffers from COPD. There are a few reasons why this can occur: the airways and air sacs of the lungs lose their elasticity; the walls between the air sacs are destroyed; the walls become inflamed; or the airways become clogged with mucus.
COPD is an umbrella term for two conditions: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. While it is possible to only have one of these conditions, many have both simultaneously.
Emphysema affects the alveoli (air sacs), which are located at the end of the bronchioles (small air passages). Emphysema occurs when excessive exposure to cigarette smoke, gasses, and other toxic fumes destroys these air sacs.
Chronic bronchitis is the inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes within the lungs. These tubes help carry air to and from the alveoli. Chronic bronchitis is associated with a persistent cough often accompanied by excessive mucus production.
While the most common cause of COPD is smoking—about 75 percent of people who have COPD are cigarette smokers—it can also be caused by a rare genetic condition known as alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency that affects the production of alpha-1 protein in the liver, which can lead to lung damage.
Symptoms of COPD
Unfortunately, the signs and symptoms of COPD often do not occur until after significant lung damage has already happened. Nevertheless, symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath (especially during physical activities);
- Wheezing or whistling while breathing;
- Chest tightness;
- A persistent cough that produces a lot of mucus;
- Unexplained weight loss;
- Respiratory infections that occur frequently; and
- Swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet.
It is important to note that these symptoms do not guarantee that a person has COPD, nor does every person diagnosed with COPD experience all these symptoms.
Diagnosis of COPD
It is important to see a doctor if you believe you may have COPD. It is not possible to self-diagnose this condition, so when you first notice the possible signs and symptoms it is best to make an appointment with your doctor. A COPD diagnosis is based on the presence of symptoms, your medical history, your family history, and test results.
Your doctor will ask you if you are a smoker and if you regularly encounter any lung irritants, such as secondhand smoke, toxic fumes, gasses, or air pollution. Additionally, your doctor will use a stethoscope to examine your breathing and to see if your chest is making abnormal sounds.
Pulmonary function tests, which measure breathing capacity and how well oxygen travels to your blood from your lungs, may also be used.
The most administered test is a spirometry test. A spirometry test involves a small machine into which you breathe. Your nose is clipped shut, and you breathe—first normally and then deeply—into a mouthpiece. This test can detect COPD at any stage, including before the onset of symptoms.
Other tests may include chest x-rays, chest CT scans, or arterial blood gas tests. These tests, while not always employed, can show signs of COPD and whether the condition is mild or severe. Moreover, this test can rule out other possible conditions that cause the same symptoms, such as asthma or heart failure.
Treatment of COPD
There is no cure for COPD, and, untreated, can lead to death. However, there are ways to treat the condition to slow its progress and help you retain your quality of life.
- Quitting smoking. Smoking is the main cause of COPD, so stopping smoking is the number one lifestyle change a person can make to mitigate the symptoms of the disease.
- Avoiding lung irritants. Other than cigarette smoke, there are many lung irritants that can cause or worsen COPD, including dust, pollution, and toxic fumes.
- Adhering to a diet. Often, sufferers of COPD have difficulty eating because of fatigue or shortness of breath. Having a diet will ensure you receive the nutrients your body needs.
- Bronchodilators. Sometimes doctors prescribe medicine to treat COPD. The most common medicine is a bronchodilator, which is an inhaler. These can come in short or long doses, depending on the severity of the condition.
- Oxygen therapy. A doctor may prescribe oxygen therapy to help you breathe better. This treatment involves using an oxygen tank hooked to either your nose or your mouth.
COPD and Your Long-Term Disability Claim
COPD is a debilitating disease. Moreover, it is a progressive disease that will get worse over time. Getting long-term disability benefits is important when you have this condition. In order to obtain LTD benefits, you must first prove that your COPD is preventing you from working. Therefore, it is vital to gather the proper evidence to prove your claim.
As mentioned, COPD can cause a multitude of issues in a person’s life. The anxiety, stress, and depression that come from having this disease can make working incredibly difficult, if not impossible. Additionally, shortness of breath can make even walking a difficult task. COPD can also lead to swollen legs, ankles, and feet.
COPD can affect your mental capacity, emotional well-being, and physical abilities. Moreover, the disease can worsen dramatically at any time, which also makes it unpredictable.
Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick Can Help You with Your Long-Term Disability Claim
It is difficult trying to manage a debilitating health condition while also filing for long-term disability benefits. The long-term disability attorneys at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick understand this and want to make the process easier for you. We have the experience and knowledge to assist you with your claim or appeal.
Our legal team will review your long-term disability policy, paying special attention to the definition of disability that you must prove you meet to receive your benefits included therein. We will assist you in gathering the best evidence to prove your claim. Moreover, we will act as a point of contact between you and your insurance company, which ensures that you will not have to directly deal with them. We make sure that no deadlines are missed and that your case is handled fairly by the insurance company.
Medical records are your primary source of evidence, but they are rarely enough to win a claim. Often, you need supplemental evidence to bolster your claim. Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick works with several outside experts who can perform additional evaluations to prove that your condition prevents you from working. Our long-term disability team wants to alleviate the burden that comes with filing for benefits so that you can focus on managing your health.
Call CCK Today for a Free Consultation Regarding Your Claim
COPD can make filing a long-term disability claim burdensome. CCK is here to help you no matter where in the process you are. To speak with a member of our long-term disability team, call us today at (800) 544-9144 and see how we can help you.
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