If you suffer from asthma or
have other lung or respiratory problems, you may qualify
for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security
Income (SSI) benefits in one of two ways:
(1) Your condition may be so bad
that you meet or equal the level of severity that
Social Security has listed for lung disease.
(2) Your condition may not meet
the listing but still be so bad that:
You cannot return to the easiest job you
had during the 15 years before you became disabled
because you cannot handle the stress or physical
demands of that job, and
You cannot adjust to other work because
of your age, education, past work experience, lack
of transferable skills, and reduced physical
This second way of getting
Social Security Disability for lung problems means that
you qualify under the medical - vocational rules.
(This is sometimes called meeting the "grids"
because a chart or grid is used to determine who qualifies
for Social Security benefits under these rules.)
The Respiratory Listings
several respiratory listings. Each listing usually
requires (1) pulmonary function test results at certain
levels and (2) reduced physical abilities due to the lung
condition. The listings are written in technical medical language,
like the listings for the other body parts.
criticism of the listings is that they rely too much on
pulmonary function tests results. Persons can have
similar test results but differ greatly in how their lung
problems affect them. Social Security relies more on
test results in determining disability than doctors do in
generally require your lung condition to remain severe
even while you are under medical care and following your
The following is a very
simplified discussion of the common Social Security
Disability listings for asthma and other respiratory
Listing 3.02 Chronic
Pulmonary Insufficiency. To qualify for
Social Security Disability or SSI under this listing,
test results for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(COPD) must satisfy the requirements of any one of
these three tests:
The first test measures
Forced Expiratory Folume (FEV1), which
is the amount of air that you can blow out in one
second, measured in litres. You would meet
this test, for example, if you are 5' 8" tall
and your FEV1 score is 1.45, meaning
that in one second you can only blow out 1.45
litres (about 1 1/3 quarts) of air.
The second test measures
Forced Vital Capacity (FVC), which is the amount
of air that you can blow out in one breath.
You would meet this test, for example, if you are 5' 8" tall and
your FVC score is 1.65, meaning that you can only
blow out 1.65 litres (about 1 1/2 quarts) of air
in one breath.
The third test measures
gas exchange, that is, how well your lungs work in
taking in oxygen and exchanging it for carbon
dioxide to breathe out. There are actually 3
different tests that can be used to measure this
gas exchange. One of these tests, for
example, can be met if your lungs can only send
carbon dioxide across your lung membranes at 40%
or less of the normal rate.
Listing 3.03 Asthma.
your lungs' bronchial tubes become inflamed and narrow
so that less air enters your lungs. You may qualify
for Social Security Disability or SSI if your asthma
cannot be adequately controlled with prescription
drugs. You can meet the listing for
asthma in one of two ways:
Your pulmonary function
tests meet the requirement for Listing 3.02.
You suffer asthma
attacks that require you to get urgent medical
treatment at least once every 2 months or 6 times
in 1 year. (Any attack which requires you to
be hospitalized for more than 24 hours counts as 2
attacks.) This second way of meeting the
listing for asthma is the most common way that the
Social Security Disability respiratory listings
As mentioned above, if you do
not meet the listings —
and many people with respiratory problems do not —
you may still qualify for Social Security Disability or
SSI due to your age, your education, the type of work you
have done, and how much stress or activity you can
tolerate because of your respiratory condition. To
learn more, read about the medical - vocational rules.
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