You probably know that asthma can limit your ability to complete daily activities—including those your work requires. But what you might not know is that you can get disability for asthma if your condition meets the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) criteria.
In 2021, 244,399 people were awarded disability benefits for their respiratory disorders like asthma. We’ll explain how the SSA evaluates asthma, when it can qualify for disability, and if you should apply for disability based on your experience with asthma.
A note: Many people (but not all) who get disability for asthma have additional injuries or conditions. If, for example, you have back pain that makes lifting things hard, and asthma that makes it difficult to walk long distances—those things in combination can “disqualify” you from many jobs. That, in turn, could help qualify you for disability. If you’d like an overview of which conditions make you eligible—and how those conditions might impact your chances when evaluated together—read our article on what conditions qualify for disability.
Alternatively, you can take our 2-minute disability quiz to get immediate insight into your eligibility. When you’re done, you’ll have the opportunity to talk to one of our client advocates—who can give you further advice.
Is asthma a disability?
Asthma is a disability that falls under the SSA’s criteria for respiratory disorders. If your asthma limits your ability to work, you may qualify for monthly benefits and healthcare. Here’s why:
How the SSA defines asthma
Asthma is a long term condition in which your airways narrow and swell in response to stimuli like dust, exercise, and even cold air. For many people, asthma is a minor inconvenience, but others experience frequent and severe shortness of breath, fatigue, and extreme sensitivity to smells, temperature, humidity, and other conditions. It’s the latter that falls into the SSA’s definition of asthma.
Your asthma may qualify you for disability if you have testing that shows airflow obstruction and you’ve had a series of extreme asthma attacks over the course of 12 months.
Common types of asthma that qualify
There are ten common types of asthma. While they all have similar symptoms, what sets them apart is how and why they present themselves. Some types of asthma, for example, occur following exercise, others following allergies, and so on.
The most common types of asthma that qualify are:
Adult onset asthma
Can you get disability for asthma?
Yes. If your asthma has a severe impact on your daily life despite medication, you may qualify for disability benefits. If you can control your asthma with medication, or only have the occasional flare up, your asthma may not meet the SSA’s criteria.
Before you can receive benefits payments, you’ll have to prove to the SSA that your asthma meets strict medical criteria. You’ll increase your odds of approval if you’re already seeing a pulmonologist to treat your asthma. A disability lawyer can also make it easier for you to get approved.
Criteria for getting disability with asthma
Though asthma can be a serious medical condition, it’s important to note that just being diagnosed isn’t enough. Instead, you’ll have to prove how far along your illness has progressed and how your asthma and its treatments impact your ability to work.
Your asthma may qualify for disability if:
The amount of air you can exhale during a forced breath is at or below the SSA’s approved level.
You’ve been hospitalized three times in the last 12 months.
Each hospitalization occurred at least 30 days apart and lasted at least 48 hours.
If you’ve experienced any or all of the above, your condition is likely severe enough to be classified as a disability by the SSA. In that case, they’ll consider your asthma a disability for one year after your most recent hospitalization. After that time, the SSA will reevaluate your symptoms to determine the best path forward for your situation.
In short, consider applying for disability if you answer “yes” to some or most of the following:
Have you been hospitalized recently?
Are you seeing a pulmonologist?
Do you require the use of oxygen?
Does your condition cause fatigue that makes it difficult to work?
Is there anything in your work environment that triggers your asthma?
My asthma meets the criteria. Now what?
If your asthma meets the SSA’s criteria and you have all the required documentation, you can apply for disability benefits as soon as you’re ready. You can also apply even if you’re unsure whether you meet all of the criteria, but the application is lengthy so it might not be worth it if you’re unlikely to qualify. Here’s what we suggest:
Apply now if:
You aren’t working, and
You need extreme medical intervention for your condition (multiple hospitalizations, 24 hour oxygen, etc.), OR
You are over 50 and you can’t do the type of work you’ve done before because of your asthma.
Consider waiting and applying later if:
You’ve just been diagnosed or your doctors hope you will be able to control your condition with medication, OR
You haven’t yet stopped working (even if you worry you’ll need to soon)
Probably don't apply if:
You can control your condition with medication, OR
You're working (earning more than about $1,400 per month) and don't plan to stop
You can also save some time by taking our two-minute quiz. It’ll help you determine if you qualify before you even start your application. If you do qualify, we can help increase your odds of approval by connecting you with an experienced lawyer. You’ll only have to pay your lawyer if you do get approved.
People with asthma and other respiratory diseases receive an average disability check of $1,356.10 per month, but your actual monthly payment may vary. Regardless of how severe your asthma is, the maximum monthly benefit is $3,627 with SSDI and $914 with SSI in 2023.
Your benefit amount depends not only on your condition, but also on your work and income history. SSDI considers your work and tax history, while SSI considers your other sources of income. You may also be able to qualify for both.
What if my asthma doesn’t meet the criteria?
If your asthma doesn’t meet the criteria, you can still apply. As long as you can prove that your asthma limits your ability to work, it may be worth applying.
Qualifying for disability can be difficult no matter how severe your asthma is. But don’t give up, even if your first application is denied or you’re finding it hard to prove that you meet all of the SSA’s criteria.
Only 20% of people who apply for disability benefits win their claim on their first application. You can always appeal your case in front of a judge. While this may sound scary, it could actually be a great opportunity; nearly half of those who appeal get approved.
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