Emphysema is a lung disease that gradually destroys the air sacs in the lungs, causes shortness of breath, and reduces the oxygen that travels to the rest of the body.

Along with chronic bronchitis, emphysema is one of the two leading causes of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Emphysema sufferers find that they are often disabled by their illness and may choose to apply for Social Security disability benefits. Our Greater Boston Social Security disability lawyers regularly help our clients with this process.

Living With Emphysema

Doctor Looking at an Emphysema Scan ReportBecause emphysema develops slowly over a long period of time, most people don’t know they have it until the disease has progressed. It begins with shortness of breath that may not be noticed right away. But over time, the breathing problems make it more difficult to complete the tasks of daily living. As emphysema advances, you may experience:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Repeated respiratory infections
  • Unusual fatigue

Your doctor may recommend treatment that includes one or more of the following:

  • Lifestyle changes. Your doctor may prescribe medication or suggest smoking cessation aids and support groups to help you stop smoking. Additionally, weight loss may be suggested if you are in the early stages of the disease, or weight gain may be recommended if you are in the later stages of emphysema.
  • Medication. Bronchodilators can help relax your constricted airways so that you can breathe easier and cough less. Aerosol inhalers containing corticosteroid drugs can also relieve symptoms. However, side effects associated with steroids include bone density, blood pressure, cataract, and diabetes-related problems.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation. A rehabilitation therapist can recommend techniques and exercises to help you breathe better and live a more active life.
  • Supplemental oxygen. If your blood oxygen levels are too low, you could be given supplemental oxygen. Some people use it at home and when exercising, and other people use it all the time.
  • Surgery. There are two types of surgery associated with emphysema. The first is lung volume reduction, in which damaged lung tissue is removed to improve breathing. The second is a full lung transplant. This is very rare and only done when you have exhausted all other options.

Social Security Disability Eligibility for People With Emphysema

Emphysema may prevent you from working. You may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits if you can prove one of the following:

  • Your medical condition satisfies the requirements of a listing in the Blue Book Listing of Impairments. Section 3.02 of the Blue Book addresses chronic respiratory conditions such as emphysema, and it explains the specific medical criteria you must meet to qualify for benefits.
  • Your medical condition is equal in severity to a Blue Book listing. Even if you don’t meet the strict requirements elaborated in Section 3.02, you may still qualify for disability benefits by proving that your emphysema affects your life in a way that is equal to any other listing included in any of the 14 Sections of the Blue Book.
  • You have a total disability expected to last 12 months or more (or cause your death), and you can’t work. You don’t need to meet a Blue Book listing to qualify for benefits if your medical records show you lack the residual functional capacity to engage in substantial gainful activity.

If you believe that you may qualify for any of these reasons, then the next step is to apply for Social Security disability benefits.

How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits

The first step in the Social Security disability application process is to contact an experienced Boston-area Social Security disability attorney.

An attorney can review your eligibility and submit a complete and accurate Social Security disability application for you. Many initial Social Security disability applications are denied on technicalities which results in an unnecessary delay in benefits. Our attorneys can help prevent these mistakes and take the stress out of applying for the disability benefits you’ve earned.

Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 508.283.5500 to schedule your free consultation.


John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer