Qualifying for SSD with Respiratory Illnesses

Respiratory illnesses, or diseases of the lungs, can be serious. The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines a respiratory illness as disabling when medical evidence proves a condition prevents the sufferer from performing their job duties and prohibits them from doing other types of work as well. Some of the most common respiratory illnesses that may qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits include chronic pulmonary insufficiency, asthma, and cystic fibrosis.

Respiratory Conditions That Qualify as Disabilities

Because symptoms for respiratory illnesses are common to many other diseases, a thorough medical history, physical examination, and chest x-rays are required to establish chronic pulmonary disease. Pulmonary function testing is required to assess the severity of the respiratory impairment once a disease process is established by appropriate clinical and laboratory findings.

Respiratory illness is evaluated by the SSA under nine conditions:

Chronic Pulmonary Insufficiency

  • What it is: Impairments caused by chronic disorders of the respiratory system generally produce irreversible loss of pulmonary function due to ventilatory impairments, gas exchange abnormalities, or a combination of both. The most common symptoms attributable to these disorders are dyspnea (difficulty breathing) on exertion, cough, wheezing, sputum production, hemoptysis (coughing up blood), and chest pain.
  • How it is evaluated: On the basis of resulting limitations in pulmonary function. Evidence of chronic infections and drug resistance are part of the basis for determining a disabling impairment expected to last 12 months.


  • What it is: This is a chronic disease of the airways that makes breathing difficult. Inflammation of the airways makes them narrower and keeps oxygen from being carried to the lungs. The resulting symptoms are coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain, or tightness.
  • How it is evaluated: If attacks require physician intervention, and occur, despite treatment, at least once every two months or at least six times a year. An evaluation period of at least 12 consecutive months must be used to determine the frequency of attacks.

Cystic Fibrosis

  • What it is: This disease causes mucus in the body to thicken and become sticky, building up in many of the body’s organs. People with this disease have problems breathing as well as difficulties with digestion, nutrition, and physical development.
  • How it is evaluated: It is determined by the frequency of episodes of bronchitis, pneumonia, or hemoptysis; frequency of pulmonary infection.

Black Lung (Pneumoconiosis)

  • What it is: This is any lung disease caused from inhaling coal dust.
  • How it is evaluated: It is determined by occupational history and chest x-rays.


  • What it is: This is the destruction and widening of the large airways.
  • How it is evaluated: It is determined by the impairment of pulmonary function or episodes of bronchitis, pneumonia, hemoptysis, or respiratory failure requiring a doctor’s intervention, occurring at least once every two months or at least six times a year.

What Should I Do if I Suffer from a Respiratory Illness?

If you suffer from a respiratory illness that prevents you from working, it may be wise to talk to a qualified Social Security Disability lawyer. He or she will be able to answer any questions you have regarding your legal rights to compensation for your condition and can also help you prepare your case.

Let Our Law Firm Help You Qualify for SSD for a Respiratory Illness

Respiratory illnesses can make it difficult for you to maintain a steady job, and if you have to cut back your hours or quit, you lose the paycheck you depend on. At Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin, we know how difficult your respiratory illness and time away from work can be for your entire family.

Our Social Security Disability lawyers are here to help you file a claim for benefits. Contact us today to for more details on how to qualify for SSD benefits on the basis of a respiratory illness.


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