The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers a number of conditions to be severe enough to prevent you from working. Regardless of the condition, all are subject to evaluation and must meet certain criteria to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.

Though most of the conditions listed by the SSA as disabling are permanent or expected to result in death, those that are not require evidence showing that the condition has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year.

Respiratory illnesses, or diseases of the lungs, can be serious and include bronchitis, pneumonia, pulmonary hypertension, and more.

Respiratory Conditions That Qualify as Disabilities

Respiratory illnesses are considered disabling by the SSA and may qualify you for either SSD or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits dependent on the condition and your age. Because these symptoms 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.

Our Law Firm Wants to Help You Get Benefits

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 SSD benefits. To contact us, just dial (800) 477-7315 today.

Find Out If You Qualify For Benefits

Take Our Disability Assessment Now

Connect With Our Attorneys Now