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

Man discussing lung image with doctorIf 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 meet the following criteria, you may qualify for Social Security disability payments:

  • You have severe asthma attacks at least once every other month, or six times per year.
  • Your attacks last one day or longer.
  • Your attacks require medical treatment at a hospital or emergency room. Examples of types of treatment include intravenous bronchodilator, intravenous antibiotics, and prolonged inhalation treatments.
  • You have chronic bronchitis in addition to asthma. Then, you may qualify for benefits based on the results of lung function and breathing tests. The Social Security Administration has a listing of impairments for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. If you have asthma and chronic bronchitis, and the level of forced expiatory volume meets what is required on the criteria for this listing, you may qualify for benefits.

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 at a job
  • 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, 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