Breathing – Asthma, COPD, Emphysema, Etc.

Breathing disorders can affect every aspect of a person’s daily functioning.  Fatigue on exertion or constant coughing will disrupt any kind work activity.  If you have a breathing disorder you could be eligible for disability benefits from that disorder alone if it is severe enough.  However, even a mild breathing disorder could contribute to the limitations that are disabled you.

It is typically the case that the Social Security Administration will require spirometry testing to determine if your condition is severe enough to be considered disabling.  That is the machine with the tube you blow into.  Your results are considered together with your height on a table that determines whether your condition can be considered severe enough to be disabling by itself.  This table can be found on the Social Security Administration’s website under the Listing of Impairments — Respiratory System, adult, but we have copied it below

The following chart is most commonly used to determine disability due to chronic pulmonary insufficiency.  However there are other sections of the respiratory listing with other criteria.  Your FEV1 is the score you blow on your spirometry testing.  This is tested after you have used a bronchodilator.  Also, your score must be consistently low.  One low score during a time when you had an acute illness such as pneumonia is not going to work.

3.02 Chronic pulmonary insufficiency

  1. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease due to any cause, with the FEV1 equal to or less than the values specified in table I corresponding to the person’s height without shoes. (In cases of marked spinal deformity, see 3.00E.);

Table I

without Shoes (centimeters)
Height without Shoes (inches) FEV1 Equal to or less than (L,BTPS)
154 or less 60 or less 1.05
155-160 61-63 1.15
161-165 64-65 1.25
166-170 66-67 1.35
171-175 68-69 1.45
176-180 70-71 1.55
181 or more 72 or more 1.65

This table does not cover some specific conditions such cystic fibrosis which is covered under Section 3.04 of the respiratory listing.  The affects of sleep apnea are considered under Section 3.09 (chronic cor pulmonale) or Section 3.10 (sleep disorders).