Bronchiectasis and Qualifying for SS Disability
Bronchiectasis is a chronic condition where inflammation damages the bronchial tubes, enlarging the airway passages to the lungs and causing them to become flabby and scarred. Damaged airways allow bacteria and mucus to build up in the lungs resulting in frequent infections and blocked airways.
Although approximately 110,000 people are treated for bronchiectasis each year, the condition is often underdiagnosed because it is grouped with diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and can be a manifestation of other diseases such as cystic fibrosis.
Common symptoms begin as a chronic cough with mucus production and progress to include:
- Shortness of breath
- Abnormal breathing sounds in the chest, such as wheezing
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Chest pain
- Coughing up blood
- Thickening of skin under the nails and toes (known as clubbing)
Any lung injury can lead to bronchiectasis, but there are two main categories of this condition: those that are related to cystic fibrosis (CF) and those that are non-CF related.
Cystic fibrosis accounts for about one-third of all cases of bronchiectasis. Other conditions which can lead to bronchiectasis are:
- Abnormal immune system function
- Irritable bowel disease
- Alpha 1-antitrypsiss deficiency (an inherited form of COPD)
- Allergic Aspergillosis (an allergic reaction to fungus)
- Lung infections such as whooping cough and tuberculosis
Those people most at risk for bronchiectasis are individuals who have cystic fibrosis, Alpha-1 antiproteinase deficiency, or have a history of recurrent lung infections.
Children who have experienced lung infections causing lung tissue destruction are also particularly at risk. If your doctor suspects bronchiectasis, they will most likely perform a number of diagnostic tests such as:
- Chest X-ray and CT scan
- Pulmonary function tests to check airflow into the lungs
- Tests to check for tuberculosis
- Tests to check for viruses, bacteria and fungus
Treatment focuses on controlling symptoms and preventing infection.
Common methods employed in the treatment of bronchiectasis include:
- Antibiotics to treat infections
- Chest physiotherapy – treatment performed by physical therapists and respiratory therapists to clear airways and drain the lungs
- Bronchodilators such as albuterol (Proventil) and tiotropium (Spirival)
- Medications to thin mucus
- Dietary supplements. Vitamin D deficiency is sometimes found and indicative of the severity of the condition
- Breathing exercises
- Oxygen therapy
If there is an underlying disease causing bronchiectasis, such as cystic fibrosis, a doctor will treat that disease.
In some very severe cases, surgery may be warranted to remove damaged lung tissue.
Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from Bronchiectasis. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
There is currently no cure for bronchiectasis, but those who obtain early and appropriate treatment typically live a normal life.
Although bronchiectasis may not be preventable, it is always wise for those at risk to keep immunizations up to date, avoid cigarette smoke and toxic fumes, and follow a good nutrition plan.
If you have been diagnosed with bronchiectasis and it has impacted your ability to work, you may be eligible for disability benefits.
The Social Security Administration recognizes bronchiectasis as an impairment under Section 3.0 Respiratory Disorders.
A. Which disorders do we evaluate in this body system?
1. We evaluate respiratory disorders that result in obstruction (difficulty moving air out of the lungs) or restriction (difficulty moving air into the lungs), or that interfere with diffusion (gas exchange) across cell membranes in the lungs. Examples of such disorders and the listings we use to evaluate them include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (chronic bronchitis and emphysema, 3.02), pulmonary fibrosis and pneumoconiosis (3.02), asthma (3.02 or 3.03), cystic fibrosis (3.04), and bronchiectasis (3.02 or 3.07). We also use listings in this body system to evaluate respiratory failure (3.04D or 3.14), chronic pulmonary hypertension (3.09), and lung transplantation (3.11).
2. We evaluate cancers affecting the respiratory system under the listings in 13.00. We evaluate the pulmonary effects of neuromuscular and autoimmune disorders under these listings or under the listings in 11.00 or 14.00, respectively.
3.07 Bronchiectasis (see 3.00K), documented by imaging (see 3.00D3), with exacerbations or complications requiring three hospitalizations within a 12-month period and at least 30 days apart (the 12-month period must occur within the period we are considering in connection with your application or continuing disability review). Each hospitalization must last at least 48 hours, including hours in a hospital emergency department immediately before the hospitalization.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.
The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.
- The Duration of Work test. Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
- The Current Work Test. Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.
The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.
- Are you working? Your disability must be “total”.
- Is your medical condition severe? Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
- Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments? The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
- Can you do the work you did before? SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
- Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.
More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
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