The Social Security Administration acknowledges an extensive array of respiratory disorders that could make a person eligible for disability benefits. These conditions are listed in the Blue Book under section 3.00 Respiratory Disorders. Even if a particular condition is not listed, it may qualify an individual for benefits if it is determined to be severe enough.
The following disorders are examples, though not an exhaustive list:
Chronic pulmonary insufficiency encompasses various types of breathing disorders. The Social Security Administration identifies this as a potentially disabling impairment, but confirmation through specific medical tests, like the forced expiratory volume test, is necessary. To be classified as a grave illness that merits consideration for benefits, an applicant must have at least one of the following conditions:
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD);
- Chronic Restrictive Ventilatory Disease;
- Chronic impairment in gas exchange due to a medically documented pulmonary disease.
Each of these conditions requires proper documentation and medical evidence to ensure that the claim for disability benefits is both valid and justifiable.
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 is characterized by symptoms such as gasping, wheezing, shortness of breath, and persistent coughing. Beyond these respiratory symptoms, COPD can also strain the heart, potentially leading to a specific cardiac condition known as pulmonary heart disease, or cor pulmonale. To manage and alleviate COPD’s effects, treatment options are available. These include oxygen therapy, programs designed to rehabilitate the lungs, known as pulmonary rehabilitation, and a range of medications and inhalers, such as Advair.
Chronic Restrictive Ventilatory Disease is a severe response to an injury or infection in the lungs. Such an occurrence often gives rise to a condition known as acute lung injury. This situation is marked by hypoxemia, a term that refers to the insufficient presence of oxygen in the arterial blood. In extreme instances, this can escalate into acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a serious inflammatory response within the lung tissue. ARDS obstructs the normal exchange of gases within the lungs and can frequently result in failure of multiple organs within the body. Unfortunately, it is often a life-threatening illness, with a significant risk of fatality.
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.