When applying for Social security Disability, the severity of your disabling condition and its impact on your daily activities is often more important than which illness or injury you have. This is particularly true with respiratory problems.
How to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits
On the one hand, the Social Security Administration’s standards for total disability are fairly constant regardless of what kind of disability you have.
Namely, to qualify for total, long-term disability and Social Security Disability benefits, you must be deemed incapable of performing any work which you have performed before; incapable of adjusting to any other kind of work which is available to people of your education level; and suffering from a disability which is expected to last more than a year or end in your death and meet the Blue Book listing.
Respiratory problems may qualify for Social Security disability benefits as they fall under the same broad guidelines as any other potential disability.
On the other hand, respiratory diseases often take considerably longer to establish as total disability than other disabling problems. Generally speaking, you will need to document your respiratory problems and how they have affected your ability to work for at least a year.
Ideally, you should do this with your doctor’s help. To qualify for Social Security Disability, in most cases, you will need to be under a physician’s care and demonstrate that you are still incapable of performing meaningful work after you have followed your doctor’s instructions regarding your respiratory problems for at least a year.
Types of Conditions that Qualify
Some respiratory problems which are typically considered for Social Security Disability and have specific SSA guidelines include:
- Asthma. To qualify for Social Security Disability due to having asthma, you must demonstrate that it affects your daily activities and ability to perform work. In order to be considered a potential total disability, you must have attacks at least once every two months (six per year) which necessitate a doctor’s treatment. Asthma attacks which require hospitalization count as two attacks, which are less serious.
- Emphysema. Applicants with emphysema have damaged lung tissue. The most common symptom is a chronic cough. Often, though not always, emphysema is caused by smoking cigarettes. In order to qualify for Social Security Disability with emphysema, you will need to demonstrate that you are following your doctor’s instructions (this will usually mean giving up cigarettes) and fully participating in any treatment and medication prescribed.
- Restrictive Lung Disease. This disease prevents your lungs from properly ventilating and exchanging gasses. The result is that your blood ends up lacking adequate oxygen. RLD can be caused by viral or bacterial causes, but more often it is caused by inhaling harmful substances such as asbestos or from radiation such as that used to treat many forms of cancer. It can also be a side effect of a number of serious diseases. As with most respiratory problems, you will need to prove that your RLD makes it impossible for you to accomplish any meaningful work.
- Stroke-related respiratory problems. Many who have suffered a stroke face difficulty breathing while they recover. In some cases, the respiratory problems are severe enough to qualify them for Social Security Disability. The SSA relies heavily on lung capacity tests to determine whether your problem is severe enough to warrant Social Security Disability. You will also want to carefully document all instances of shortness of breath and how it impacted your daily activities, along with any other post-stroke related symptoms.
Medical Evidence to Support Your Claim
If you are filing a claim for Social Security disability benefits with your respiratory condition, you will need to submit evidence of your condition so that the Social Security Administration can determine whether you qualify.
In order to evaluate your claim, the SSA will utilize the Disability Evaluation Under Social Security, commonly known as the Blue Book. The Blue Book is a comprehensive listing of medical conditions that give the SSA a baseline to make their decisions. Your claim will be compared to the Blue Book to see if your condition meets the Blue Book standards to be considered disabled.
Respiratory issues are found in Section 3.00, which outlines several respiratory conditions in adults including chronic respiratory disorders, asthma and cystic fibrosis, among others.
Your application should include a medical report from your doctor detailing your diagnosis, including supporting lab tests, imaging scan results and results from associated surgeries. Also include your treatment plan and medications, and be sure to indicate if you have experienced any side effects as a result of your treatment plan. For example, you might be suffering from side effects from steroids used in your treatment plan, and those side effects might impact your ability to work.
Make sure that you provide as much information as possible when preparing your claim. Respiratory issues vary widely, so it’s important to provide supporting documentation so that the SSA can understand your particular situation.
Qualifying with Respiratory Problems Using the Medical-Vocational Allowance
It is possible that your condition does not meet the criteria for disability benefits under the Blue Book guidelines, but you could still qualify under the medical-vocational allowance.
The medical-vocational allowance is a series of guidelines that will determine whether you are able to work based on your condition. The SSA will consider your age, educational background, work experience and work history, along with your residual function capacity (RFC) to determine whether you can perform the demands of your job. Your RFC establishes the maximum amount of work you can do given the limitations of your condition.
The SSA will consider the nonexertional demands of work (mental, postural, manipulative, visual, communicative, and environmental) and exertional demands of work (walking, standing, sitting, lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling) to determine whether you could perform work, either under modifications for your condition or in a different position entirely. If you are found to be unable to work under the medical-vocational allowance, you could qualify for disability benefits.
How to Apply
There are three ways to apply for Social Security disability benefits. You can apply online, by mail or in person.
To apply online, you must first create an account on the Social Security Administration website. Once logged in, you can access the disability benefits application and fill it out. You will be able to add all of your medical documentation as well. When you apply online, the start date for your application also serves as the start date should you be owed any back pay.
If you would prefer to apply with a paper application, you can either print a copy from the SSA website or pick one up from your local branch office. Once complete, you can either mail it or return it in person to the branch office.
If you know that you will be submitting an application for benefits, you can send a letter to the SSA requesting a protective filing date. T will serve as the start date for your paper application rather than the date you submit it.
When filing with a paper application, make sure you have a copy of the application and supporting documentation in case it gets lost on the way to the SSA.
Talk to a Social Security Attorney
If you have a respiratory problem of any type which you believe may qualify you for Social Security Disability, you should start the claims process sooner rather than later because respiratory claims often take a considerable amount of time to substantiate.
You should also consider contacting a Social Security Disability lawyer or advocate to help you with the claims process. They will be able to help you get all of your medical records in order and will give you the best chance to be approved for benefits.