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November 1, 1965

Pulmonary Impairment and Disability Claims

Author Affiliations

From the Thoracic Services, University Hospital, the departments of medicine (Drs. Lindgren and Müller) and surgery (Dr. Gaensler), Boston University School of Medicine; and Harvard Medical School and Tufts University School of Medicine (Dr. Gaensler), Boston. Dr. Müller is a research fellow in medicine (trainee under program 5T1-HE-5562).

JAMA. 1965;194(5):499-506. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090180023005

This is a pilot study of 100 persons claiming total and permanent disability because of pulmonary disease or dyspnea. The group was compared to 100 patients without disability claims who had similar age and sex distribution and virtually identical lung-function profiles. Among these, only 12 were totally disabled. One half of the claimants were unskilled laborers, as opposed to 12% of the controls.

Among the claimants, 46% had no discernible pulmonary impairment. Their main problems were inactive tuberculosis, insignificant heart disease, psychiatric problems, obesity, and alcoholism. Chronic obstructive airway disease accounted for 21 of the 25 cases of severe impairment. Claimants showed more variability and poorer performance with the maximal breathing capacity test than with single breath tests. They complained of more severe dyspnea for a given pulmonary reserve than the controls. The clinical and socioeconomic differences between the claimants and the control group are stressed.