How to Get Social Security Disability Benefits for Asthma

Important: We updated this article in August 2023 with current info from the Social Security Administration. Asthma is a respiratory disorder that affects the airways and can make it difficult to breathe. Since asthma can interfere with normal daily activities, the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers it an approved medical condition. This means individuals who cannot work for one year may qualify to receive Social Security disability benefits for asthma.

Asthma Symptoms That Can Cause Airflow Obstruction

Several factors may trigger adult asthma symptoms, such as:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Gasping
  • Trouble speaking

In severe cases, asthma limits your activity levels and affects your ability to perform daily living tasks. If you required emergency treatment for severe asthma in the past year, then you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits for asthma.

Important: Asthma attacks can also make you pass out, starving vital organs of the oxygen they need to thrive. If this happens, seek emergency treatment immediately at your nearest emergency room.

Common Asthma Triggers to Avoid

Here are just a few things that can suddenly make your lung airways tighten and trigger an asthma attack:

  • Cold air
  • Air pollution or other airborne irritants (i.e., perfumes, aerosol cleaning sprays, smoke, or chemical fumes)
  • Allergies
  • Exercise or other physical activities
  • High humidity
  • Dust mites
  • Mold and mildew
  • Anxiety
  • Heartburn
  • Upper respiratory tract infections

Chronic Asthmatic Bronchitis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Other Conditions That Cause Asthma-Like Symptoms

Several other respiratory system conditions can cause difficulty breathing and asthma-like symptoms. These include:

  • Sinusitis
  • Myocardial ischemia
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is also commonly known as chronic acid reflux
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Long Covid, also known as post-Covid syndrome
  • Emphysema

Important: Don’t just list your breathing problems on your SSD claim. Instead, include every health issue you have when filling out your paperwork. Almost 7 in 10 people who get SSD benefits list 3-5 health problems on their applications.

Social Security Disability Benefits for Asthma: How to Qualify

Getting Social Security disability benefits for asthma can be very important if you cannot work due to your condition. Social Security’s Blue Book lists the criteria the agency uses to see how your asthma impacts your residual functional capacity. According to the SSA, in order to receive Social Security benefits for asthma, the following must be true:

  1. Your health condition must stop you from working for at least 12 months. If you cannot work due to breathing issues, you may be a good candidate to receive asthma disability benefits.
  2. You must have at least 20 work credits when you apply. This means you worked at least 5 in the last 10 years full time while paying Social Security payroll taxes. If you don’t have enough work history, then you might still qualify for Supplemental Security Income.
  3. You’re not currently getting any other RSDI benefits from the SSA. Examples include things like early retirement or regular Social Security.
  4. You follow prescribed treatment from your doctor, but still have chronic asthma symptoms. For example: You suffer from chronic asthma bronchitis and meet the criteria for COPD.
  5. You stayed in the hospital at least 3 times in the last year to treat your asthma attacks. The SSA says each incident must occur at least 30 days apart from the previous one. In addition, you must stay in the hospital for 48 hours or longer for that visit to count.

Pro Tip: It’s a good idea to talk with your primary care doctor about how asthma attacks affect your ability to work. Your doctor can supply crucial medical evidence that supports your Social Security disability benefits for asthma claim. Having complete medical records from your doctor can make all the difference, especially during the initial application process.

Medical Evidence You’ll Need to Get Social Security Disability Benefits for Asthma Attacks

If you file a Social Security disability asthma claim, you must also include strong medical proof with your application. Here’s what the SSA wants to see when they review your medical records:

  • Any recent lung function test results, such as spirometry, DCO, ABG, and pulse oximetry.
  • Imaging scans of your lungs, such as x-rays, CT scans or MRIs.
  • If you use supplemental oxygen at home, be sure to provide that information.
  • Asthma treatment notes your doctor showing what oral medications or other treatments you’ve tried and whether they helped control your symptoms.
  • Any relevant medical history, such as relatives who also suffer severe asthma attacks or have chronic asthmatic bronchitis.

Important: Don’t have recent medical records to submit with your claim? The SSA will send you for an independent physical exam where their doctor can have you perform a pulmonary function test. If they send you a letter about an exam, then you must attend to get Social Security disability benefits for asthma.

Get Free Expert Help Applying for Asthma Disability Benefits

Few people who apply get Social Security disability benefits for asthma on their first try. But an experienced Social Security attorney can triple your chances for success without paying any fees up front. Can’t afford to see a doctor? An attorney can cover the cost of any tests you need or pay for copies of your complete medical records.

We can connect you with a nearby SSD claims expert by phone today for free application help. If the SSA doesn’t award you benefits, then you owe $0 for expert assistance. And if you’re successful, then you only pay one small fee after your benefits begin.

Want to talk to a local claims expert for free, in private? Click the button below now to start your free online benefits quiz and see if you may qualify:

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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity,, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.