Smoking is just plain bad for you. Period. But you probably already know that.
But Did You Know That Smoking Can Also Be Bad for Your Social Security Disability Claim?
There are many ways that smoking can adversely affect your claim for disability benefits. Consider, for example, that:
- If you have COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or any other lung impairment, and you consistently have trouble breathing, smoking will only make those impairments worse. For instance, if you need to be on home oxygen, it is VERY dangerous to smoke near oxygen. By continuing to smoke, you put your life in danger, as well as the life of anyone in the vicinity. Also, if you tell the judge you cannot breathe, have trouble breathing, or are constantly short of breath, the judge will not believe it is really that bad if you are continuing to smoke.
- Your heart is directly affected by your lung health. If you have heart problems, you should not be smoking. Both organs are compromised when you smoke. The nicotine in cigarettes constricts blood vessels, making it harder for your body to pump blood and get it into the bones and muscles that need it. This puts additional stress on your heart, organs, and tissues.
- Smoking can impair healing. If you have an orthopedic impairment, particularly back problems, it can be harder for your body to heal if you smoke. For example, if you have back surgery and continue to smoke, your healing is slowed because the capillaries are constricted and the bones and muscles cannot properly heal if the blood cannot be circulated through the damaged area at an optimal rate.
- Your claim may be denied if smoking caused your disability. In other words, if your smoking is a material reason why you developed your disabling condition, your application for benefits may be denied. For example, if you are a lifetime smoker who is claiming Social Security disability because of emphysema, you may not be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
- Finally, a reason that many people do not think of and do not realize until told: If you tell the judge that you cannot fill your prescriptions or go to the doctor because you cannot afford it, yet you smoke a pack or two per day, you have basically just told the judge that smoking is more important to you than medical care or your health. An average pack of cigarettes costs more than $6.50 in Texas. If you smoke a pack per day, you are spending almost $200 per month on cigarettes. If the judge does the math on that, he or she will likely assume that your health is not as bad as you say it is because otherwise you would spend that money on medications and/or doctor’s appointments.
If you are suffering from a disabling impairment and believe that you are unable to work because of that impairment, PLEASE STOP SMOKING. Your health and your disability claim will fare better if you do.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.