Can You Get Disability for Chronic Bronchitis? Yes, there is disability benefits available for people with chronic bronchitis. Most Americans suffer from colds (or even the flu) in the winter. At times, they are even diagnosed with a more severe version of a respiratory infection, such as bronchitis. But this illness — more accurately termed acute bronchitis — should not be confused with chronic bronchitis.
Unlike acute bronchitis, which will resolve within a week or two, chronic bronchitis is a long-term or chronic condition. It comes with serious symptoms that often lead to disability. For this reason, many people who suffer from chronic bronchitis may apply for long-term disability insurance benefits.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9 million adults were diagnosed with chronic bronchitis in the United States in 2018. This relatively common disease can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to work, making it all the more important to have a skilled New Jersey disability benefits attorney who can work with you to apply for benefits or appeal a denial of benefits.
What is Chronic Bronchitis?
Chronic bronchitis is a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. With chronic bronchitis, the breathing tubes leading to the lungs — called bronchi — are inflamed. Unlike acute bronchitis, where this inflammation resolves in a week or two, in chronic bronchitis, the inflammation is long-term.
The inflammation of the bronchi causes a number of symptoms, including:
- A cough (often called smoker’s cough)
- Excess mucus production
- Coughing up mucus
- Chest discomfort
- Bluish fingertips, lips, and skin (due to low oxygen levels)
- Wheezing and crackling sounds with breathing
- Swollen feet
- Heart failure
A cough and excessive mucus production may occur for years before shortness of breath occurs. Over time, chronic bronchitis is likely to cause frequent and severe infections that impact the airways, narrowing and plugging of the bronchi, and difficulty breathing. This often leads to disability.
Chronic bronchitis is most often caused by smoking, although air pollution and other factors, such as the work environment, may play a role. It is diagnosed through a number of diagnostic exams, including pulmonary function tests, an arterial blood gas test, a pulse oximetry test, a chest X-ray, and a CT scan. Other lung diseases, such as tuberculosis, must be ruled out before chronic bronchitis can be diagnosed.
In advanced stages, there is no cure for chronic bronchitis. Instead, treatment focuses on managing the causes and symptoms. This includes taking medications to help open airways and clear mucus, using oxygen, having a lung reduction surgery or a lung transplant, quitting smoking and humidifying the air.
Can You Qualify for Long-Term Disability Benefits If You Have Chronic Bronchitis?
Yes, you can qualify for long-term disability benefits if you have chronic bronchitis. As its name suggests, chronic bronchitis is a chronic, long-term disease. As the disease progresses, and particularly if an individual does not make lifestyle changes (such as quitting smoking), lung damage associated with chronic bronchitis may make it difficult or even impossible to work. A reduced lung function often leads to low levels of oxygen, causing fatigue, shortness of breath, and related issues.
Given the severity of the symptoms associated with chronic bronchitis, if you have been diagnosed with this condition, you may qualify for LTD benefits. In particular, if your disease has progressed to a stage where your heart is failing, you have difficulty breathing, or if you are wheezing due to excess mucus production, you will likely be unable to work because of your health.
LTD benefits are available through an insurance policy, offered through a group plan or purchased individually. If you are unable to work due to a disability, you will receive a monthly payment, typically 50 to 60% of your monthly salary. Depending on the terms and conditions of your policy, these payments will start after a waiting period (often 90 to 180 days) and may last anywhere from 24 months or as long as retirement age.
Each insurance policy is different, but as a general rule, you will need to demonstrate that you have been diagnosed with chronic bronchitis and that your condition prevents you from working. Because chronic bronchitis is diagnosed using a combination of objective tests, such as chest X-rays and lung function tests, this can typically be documented using your medical records. Notes from treating physicians will bolster your claim.
Next, you will need to prove that your chronic bronchitis impacts your ability to work. The information that you provide must be specific to how your diagnosis affects you. For example, if you work in customer service and often cannot communicate with customers because of a dry, hacking cough, you should be able to explain this.
Alternatively, your breathing capacity may be so limited that you cannot work. A treating physician can offer a medical opinion on your abilities and limitations based on your condition and symptoms. This letter may specify that you cannot be exposed to dust or fumes, can walk for no more than 15 minutes at a time, or can lift no more than 10 pounds.
Treatments for chronic bronchitis may also have side effects that can make it difficult to work. Steroids that are used to relieve inflammation of the airways can lead to weakened bones, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cataracts. If you need a portable oxygen tank to help you breathe, it may limit your ability to be in certain workplaces due to its flammability.
Linking your symptoms to your ability to work is critical to a successful application for LTD benefits. By asking your doctor to specifically note how your chronic bronchitis makes it difficult for you to work, you will improve the likelihood that your application for benefits will be approved.
Experienced New Jersey Disability Benefits Attorneys Waiting for Your Call
Chronic bronchitis is a devastating diagnosis that can have a significant impact on the quality of life and often leads to disability. While treatments can alleviate some symptoms, many people diagnosed with this condition are so compromised that they are unable to work due to shortness of breath, heart failure, wheezing, and other symptoms.
At Bross & Frankel, we are devoted to working with individuals with a range of disabilities as they seek benefits, including chronic bronchitis. With more than 20 years of experience, we are skilled at guiding people just like you through the process. Contact us today at (856) 795-8880, or reach out online to schedule a free disability claim review with a New Jersey disability benefits attorney.