Social Security’s rules recognize a wide variety of respiratory disorders which, if severe enough, may qualify for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration. These conditions include, but are not limited to, the following disorders:
Chronic pulmonary insufficiency is a general term that includes several different types of breathing disorders. The Social Security Administration does consider it a debilitating impairment, but only after having been proved by various tests, such as a forced expiratory volume test. To qualify as a serious illness, Social Security requires that a claimant must have one of the following:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease;
- Chronic restrictive ventilatory disease; or
- Chronic impairment of gas exchange caused by a clinically documented pulmonary disease.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD for short, is a general term for several lung diseases, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. These diseases are typically evidenced by obstructed airflow through the airways in and out of the lungs. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema cause excessive inflammatory processes leading to abnormalities in lung structure and limited airflow. Both medical conditions are progressive in nature and worsen over time.
COPD symptoms include gasping, wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing. In addition, COPD makes the heart work harder and can cause pulmonary heart disease, or cor pulmonale. Treatment for COPD includes oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation, and various medications and inhalers such as Advair.
Chronic restrictive ventilatory disease is a serious reaction to a lung injury or infection. This usually results in acute lung injury, which is characterized by hypoxemia, or a lack of oxygen in arterial blood. Severe cases lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome, which is an inflammation of the lung that restricts gas exchange and often leads to multiple organ failures. It is typically a fatal illness.
To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, a confirmed diagnosis must be provided.
Asbestosis is a lung disease caused by excessive breathing in fibers found in asbestos. These fibers can produce scar tissue in the lungs, which can create difficulty in allowing the lungs to expand and contract in a normal way. The amount of asbestos breathed in and how long the person was exposed to it determines how severe the condition will be. In many cases, people with asbestosis won’t show symptoms for up to 20 years after their asbestos exposure.
Those who worked in asbestos mines and mills were most likely to get this condition, as well as those who worked in construction, fireproofing, and other industries of the sort. Families of the asbestos workers were also at risk of exposure. This disease is less common now than it was prior to the 70s due to government regulations about asbestos use.
Sleep apnea is a chronic sleep disorder in which breathing is interrupted throughout the night. With sleep apnea, sleep is disrupted three or more nights each week and makes the person who suffers from it sleepy during the day even after a full night’s rest. This is because of pauses in breathing that occur frequently during the night, often lasting for a minute or longer. These pauses move a person from deep sleep into light sleep and typically cause choking once normal breathing resumes. This all makes sleep apnea one of the leading causes of daytime sleepiness.