Qualifying for Disability Benefits with a Pulmonary Disorder


by Deanna Power, Director of Outreach, Disability Benefits Help

Pulmonary disorders affect millions of Americans every year. From asthma to COPD to cystic fibrosis, lung dis-

ease is one of the fastest-growing causes of disability in America. If you are unable to work due to your pulmonary disorder, Social Security disability benefits may be an option. Created to help people in need, both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provide financial assistance to those who are unable to work.

Qualifications for Social Security benefits are broken into two categories: medical and technical. You will only qualify for Social Security benefits if you meet both criteria.

Medical Qualifications

When the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates applications, they compare the applicant’s diagnosis with its corre- sponding listing in the “Blue Book,” which is a medical guide listing all disabilities that might qualify, and the requirements you need for qualification. While there are multiple listings for the various types and symptoms of pulmonary disorders, most fall under Section 3.00: Respiratory Disorders (or Section 103.00 for children). Adults with a disabling pulmonary dis- order can compare their symptoms to their Blue Book listing to see if they may qualify before applying. For example, for a person with cystic fibrosis to qualify as disabled, their diagnosis must be of a certain severity. This is determined through genetic tests, nasal ion transport tests, spirometry tests, or other pulmonary function tests that demonstrate your lungs’ inability to func- tion normally. However, if your diagnosis is unlisted or you are unsure if you may quali- fy, it is still worth sending in an application. Unlisted disorders can still qualify without a listing if the SSA finds an applicant suf- ficiently impaired and otherwise eligible.

Most pulmonary disorders require a FEV1 test to be performed to evaluate your lungs’ function. If you have not had this test yet, be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor to do so. Additionally, most pulmonary disorders require frequent hospitalizations. If you’re hospitalized three times per year, you will have a good chance of qualifying for disability benefits due to a pulmonary disorder.

Finally, if your pulmonary disorder is severe enough to require a lung transplant, you will automatically medically qualify for disability benefits for three years. After three years, the SSA will reevaluate your claim to determine if you are still medically eligible.

Technical Qualifications

The SSA also evaluates income when considering eligibility. Depending on age and work history, different types of benefits may be available to certain applicants.

Adults who have worked will almost always qualify for SSDI benefits, even if you’ve just worked part-time after age

  1. SSDI benefits are the most commonly received form of disability benefits. SSDI recipients will also be enrolled onto Medi- care 24 months after becoming disabled.

If an applicant with a pulmonary disor- der is under 18, or has not worked at all, SSI is an available option. SSI benefits do have strict income limits. An adult applying cannot have more than $2,000 in saved cash or assets (a second car, a second home,etc.). They also cannot have a spouse earn- ing a decent living wage.

For children, parents’ income is evaluated on their behalf to determine what funds are available and whether or not the family has a financial need for SSI benefits. Depending on family size and number of earners, in- come limits may vary. For example: If an only child with asthma is raised at home by a single mother, she can earn no more than $3,057/month in order for her child to qualify for SSI. In contrast, if a child with asthma is raised by  both  parents in a home with two other non-disabled chil- dren, the monthly income limit is $4,525 instead.

Applying for Benefits

Applications for SSDI can be found online. FAQs and other important information can also be found here if you have any questions about the application or the process.

Applications for SSI are currently un- available online. However, it is recom- mended that the Online Application for Disability Benefits be filled out prior to applying for benefits. While this isn’t the official application, the information pro- vided can be transferred to your application and helps to start the disability process. An appointment can then be made to fill out an application by calling your local Social Security office.

It usually takes around five months to be approved, although some applicants are approved in just a couple of weeks. Once your benefits start, you can focus on your lungs’ health and worry less about your household’s finances!

LAST ISSUE’S ANSWERS: The Lincoln Quiz

1c. What site might Lincoln aficionados visit in Lexington, KY? His wife, Mary Todd, lived with her family on Main Street.

2b. “A house divided against itself can- not stand.” When did Lincoln make a speech using this biblical quote? When he accepted his party’s nomination for U.S. Senate in 1858

3c. What was William Herndon’s association with Abraham Lincoln? He was Lincoln’s law partner in Illinois and wrote a biography of Lincoln after his death.

4b. What play was Lincoln watching when he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth? Lincoln was shot during a performance of “Our American Cousin” on April 14, 1865.

5a. Which of these connections between Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy isn’t true? Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy, and Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln is not true.

6b. What did Abraham Lincoln invent and receive a patent for? A device to help boats navigate shallow waters

7d. Why did Abraham Lincoln grow a beard? A little girl wrote him a letter telling him he should grow one.

8b. Of Lincoln’s four children, who was the only one who survived to adulthood? Robert Todd Lincoln

9a. How long did Lincoln take to deliver the Gettysburg Address? All of two minutes! 10c. How many soldiers did Abraham Lincoln request volunteer for the Union Army in

the Civil War? 75,000