When Asthma Becomes an Impairment That Qualifies for Social Security Disability Benefits

Man discussing lung image with doctor

If you suffer from asthma, you are familiar with chronic coughing, shortness of breath, tightness in your chest, and wheezing. These symptoms can make it very difficult to breathe comfortably and can result in an inability to work. You may be wondering how you can possibly support yourself financially if your asthma is making it impossible to earn a living. Fortunately, asthma is a recognized disability on the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments, and you may qualify for much needed benefits.

When Does a Person With Asthma Qualify for Disability?

If you have applied for disability benefits in the past due to asthma, it is important to note that in October of 2016 the Listing of Impairments was changed to affect the eligibility for asthma sufferers.

Currently, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits if you meet both of the following criteria in Listing 3.03:

  • The volume of air that you exhale in the first second of a forced expiratory maneuver (also known as your FEV1) is less than or equal to the value for your age, gender, and height provided in Listing 3.03(A).
  • Your asthma or complications from your asthma have required you to be hospitalized at least three times within a 12 month period with each hospitalization being at least 30 days apart. Each hospitalization must last at least 48 hours (including any time spent in an emergency room prior to admission). You are considered disabled for one year after your last discharge (unless you qualify in another way).

If you do not qualify for disability benefits based on the asthma listing, you can potentially qualify because of your inability to work. The Social Security Administration will consider the following:

  • The limitations your asthma puts on your ability to work
  • What functions you are able to perform despite your impairment
  • Whether your doctor has restricted you from heavy exertion, working around excessive dust and fumes, or working in extreme hot or cold temperatures

Regardless of how you qualify, you are going to have to submit a Social Security disability application and prove that you are eligible for benefits.

Medical Records Are Key to Disability Benefits for Asthma

Sending your entire medical history to the Social Security Administration for review may be unnecessary. The Administration wants to see how your condition impacts your ability to work. Therefore, be sure that your medical records include the following:

  • Documentation of your history of asthma attacks that required hospitalization
  • Documentation of your history of asthma attacks that required emergency treatment, such as a spirometry test and arterial blood gas studies
  • Results from a spirometry test and arterial blood gas studies
  • Description of the asthma treatment that was administered—and for how long
  • Documentation of how well you responded to the treatment you received
  • Results from a spirometry test administered during a time when you were not suffering from an asthma attack—to serve as a baseline for airflow obstruction
  • Proof that you have been complying with the treatment you were instructed to undergo by your physician

Your medical records should be requested from all of your health care providers.

Now that you are ready to move forward with pursuing disability benefits, you should understand that the process is not easy. We encourage you to view our Social Security Disability Fact Sheet to learn more about this process and to contact our office to schedule a confidential case evaluation. We are here to help you when you are ready to proceed.

Carl M. Weisbrod
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Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law