Asthma is a serious respiratory condition that can significantly impact a person’s ability to work and maintain a normal life. According to the American Lung Association, approximately 7.5% of people living in Florida currently have asthma of which 5-10% have severe form of the disease.  For those people who are unable to work due to asthma, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can provide vital support. This article offers a detailed guide on asthma, its diagnosis and treatment, and how to effectively pursue SSDI/SSI claims in Florida.

Causes of Asthma

Asthma is a chronic condition that inflames and narrows the airways, causing difficulty in breathing. Several factors contribute to the development of asthma, including:

  • Genetics: Family history of asthma or other allergic conditions.
  • Environmental Factors: Exposure to allergens such as pollen, mold, pet dander, and dust mites.
  • Respiratory Infections: Early childhood respiratory infections can damage lung tissues.
  • Air Pollutants: Exposure to smoke, chemicals, and pollution.
  • Occupational Hazards: Exposure to irritants such as fumes, gases, and dust in the workplace.

Pertinent Diagnostic Tests for Asthma

Diagnosing asthma involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests, including:

  • Spirometry: Measures lung function and the amount and speed of air a person can exhale.
  • Peak Flow Measurement: Assesses the patient’s ability to expel air from the lungs.
  • Methacholine Challenge: Tests airway sensitivity.
  • Allergy Testing: Identifies specific allergens that trigger symptoms.
  • Chest X-ray or CT Scan: Checks for any structural issues in the lungs.

Treatments for Asthma

Asthma treatment aims to control symptoms and prevent flare-ups. Common treatments include:

  • Inhaled Corticosteroids: Reduce inflammation in the airways.
  • Long-acting Beta Agonists: Help open airways and make breathing easier.
  • Leukotriene Modifiers: Reduce airway inflammation and prevent asthma symptoms.
  • Quick-relief Inhalers: Provide immediate relief during an asthma attack.
  • Biologics: Target specific pathways in the immune system to prevent asthma symptoms.

Is Asthma a Chronic Condition?

Yes, asthma is a chronic condition characterized by persistent symptoms that can flare up due to various triggers such as allergens, exercise, cold air, and stress. Chronic asthma requires ongoing management and treatment to maintain control and prevent severe exacerbations.  The chronic nature of asthma makes it particularly difficult to work on a consistent basis, particularly in severe cases.

How Asthma Affects the Ability to Work

Asthma can significantly impact a person’s ability to work, especially if symptoms are severe and poorly controlled. Frequent asthma attacks can lead to missed workdays, decreased productivity, and the inability to perform certain job functions, particularly those that involve physical exertion or exposure to respiratory irritants.

Unemployment and Poverty Rates for People with Asthma in Florida

Individuals with asthma face higher unemployment and poverty rates compared to the general population. In Florida, the unemployment rate for people with asthma is higher due to frequent absences from work and decreased productivity. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Immigrant Minority Health found that adults with asthma were more likely to experience unemployment compared to those without asthma. The economic burden of managing a chronic condition like asthma also contributes to higher poverty rates among this population.

Qualifying for SSDI/SSI Benefits for Asthma

To qualify for SSDI/SSI benefits for asthma, applicants must meet specific criteria outlined by the Social Security Administration (SSA):

  1. Medical Evidence: Detailed medical records documenting the severity and frequency of asthma attacks, treatment history, and response to medications.
  2. Spirometry Results: FEV1 (Forced Expiratory Volume in one second) measurements below a certain threshold.
  3. Frequent Hospitalizations: Documentation of at least three hospitalizations for asthma within a 12-month period, each lasting at least 48 hours.
  4. Inability to Work: Evidence that asthma symptoms prevent the applicant from performing any substantial gainful activity (SGA).

Applying for SSDI/SSI for Asthma – You are Not Alone

Respiratory disorders, including asthma, are a common basis for disability claims. Nationwide, respiratory disorders make up a significant portion of SSDI/SSI applications.  Of these applicants,  244,399 were awarded disability benefits for respiratory disorders like asthma nationwide in 2021.

Application Process and Timeline for SSDI/SSI for Asthma in Florida

The application process for SSDI/SSI benefits can be lengthy. On average, it takes about 3 to 5 months to receive an initial decision. If denied, the appeal process, including reconsideration and a hearing before an administrative law judge, can extend the timeline to over a year.

Chances of Winning an Initial SSDI/SSI Claim and Hearing for Asthma

The approval rates for initial SSDI/SSI claims for asthma are relatively low, with around 30-35% of claims approved initially. However, the chances of winning an appeal at a hearing increase to about 45-50%, especially with comprehensive medical documentation and legal representation.

Engaging a Disability Attorney

Hiring a disability attorney can significantly improve the chances of a successful SSDI/SSI claim for asthma. An experienced attorney can:

  • Assist with Application: Ensure all required documents and medical records are accurately submitted.
  • Provide Legal Representation: Represent the claimant during hearings and appeals.
  • Improve Outcomes: Increase the likelihood of approval by presenting a compelling case.

Tips for Winning SSDI/SSI Claims for Asthma

  1. Comprehensive Medical Records: Provide detailed and up-to-date medical records, including spirometry results, treatment history, and documentation of asthma attacks.
  2. Consistent Treatment: Show evidence of ongoing treatment and adherence to prescribed medications.
  3. Doctor’s Support: Obtain a detailed statement from your treating physician explaining the severity of your asthma and how it limits your ability to work.
  4. Hospital Records: Include records of any hospitalizations due to asthma, highlighting the frequency and duration of these events.
  5. Functional Limitations: Document how asthma affects your daily activities and work capabilities.

Filing for SSDI/SSI benefits for asthma in Florida requires a thorough understanding of the medical and legal criteria involved. Whether you are just beginning the application process or appealing a denied claim, Disability Advocates Group is here to help. With our expertise, we can guide you through each step, ensuring you have the best chance of receiving the benefits you deserve.  Please contact us today to for a free consultation.