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Asthma and Social Security Disability Benefits

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects an individual’s airways causing wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and trouble breathing.

Asthma affects the tubes that carry air to the lungs and can cause them to be swollen or sore. With this inflammation, an individual’s airways can become increasingly sensitive to irritations and increase the chances that they will have an allergic reaction.

In extreme situations individuals can die from a severe asthmatic attack if their airways narrow to the point that their vital organs do not get sufficient oxygen.

Asthma is not curable but generally can be controlled with medication and managing other stressors or conditions which can increase attacks such as stress, cold, allergies, and exercise.

Can I qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income with asthma?

The Social Security Administration has created a list of impairments they consider so severe that claimants with these conditions are assumed to be unable to work. This list is called the Listing of Impairments or SSA Bluebook. Claimants, whose condition “meets or exceeds” a condition on this list, will be considered disabled.

Asthma is evaluated under 3.03A and 3.03B using the criteria established for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (Chronic Pulmonary Insufficiency).

Under 3.03A the SSA will evaluate chronic pulmonary insufficiency which indicates that a claimant can be disabled if they have a speficic FEV1 (forced expiratory volume in one second). The SSA has established specific limits which must be met and the assumption is that the more severe the lung disease the lower the FEV1 score.

Claimants may also qualify for disability if they meet 3.03B. This criterion outlines the number of “attacks” that the claimant must have, in spite of prescribed treatment and requiring physician intervention.

The SSA specifies that the asthmatic attacks must occur at least once every 2 months or at least six times a year. Each in-patient hospitalization for longer than 24 hours for control of asthma counts as two attacks, and an evaluation period of at least 12 consecutive months must be used to determine the frequency of attacks.

How does the SSA define attack? An attack is not a minute long coughing spell. An attack, according to the SSA, is a prolonged episode that requires emergency treatment and generally a trip to the emergency room. If you are able to control the symptoms at home with a nebulizer or your personal inhaler, the SSA will not consider this an “attack.”

To win disability benefits under 3.03B the claimant will need very good medical records documenting the medical invention which was needed for each emergency asthmatic episode.

Hiring a disability lawyer

What if the claimant’s condition does not meet or exceed a listing? The Social Security Administration does have another process they use to determine if a claimant’s condition is so severe they cannot work. This approval method is called a medical vocational allowance.

Under the medical vocational allowance the SSA will evaluate if the claimant has enough residual capacity to work given their age, educational level, work skills and health condition. Claimants who do not meet the listing for asthma may need to talk to a disability lawyer to develop a strong case with recent medical evidence to prove they cannot work.