Respiratory Problems


“Hi, my name is Andrew Kinney, and I’m an attorney at Hoglund law offices. I practice Social Security disability law. I also help people with supplement security income otherwise known as SSI. Today I wanted to talk about respiratory impairments or breathing problems.

A lot of people have problems with breathing for different reasons. You can have problems breathing due to COPD, due to asthma, or due to a chronic problem that you are born with such as cystic fibrosis. But for whatever reason you have trouble breathing and you need medication, it is important to know that social security disability may be for you. The question is: how bad does it need to be?

Children applying for social security disability benefits based on breathing problems will apply under the SSI program. Adults can apply under the SSI program based on financial need or the disability insurance program. So, today I’m going to talk about how bad the breathing problems need to be to be approved for benefits.

There is no clear-cut rule as to how bad the breathing problems need to be. But social security has definitions, also known as listings, that allow you to know whether you meet the guidelines on the front end. What I mean by this is, if you apply for benefits and your breathing problems are bad enough, social security has definitions called listings that you might meet. You might have enough problems that you are found disabled without much analysis beyond the medical analysis. Those are hard standards to meet in my experience. What I am going to talk about is, expecting to go to a hearing and having lung disease, asthma or cystic fibrosis.

There are some main things, in fact three important ideas, to keep in mind when you are applying for benefits under any of these problems. First, you need to see medical doctors, ideally pulmonary specialists, but at least medical doctors. Why? Because medical doctors will track and write down and document what’s wrong. With breathing problems in particular there are tests for this. You need tests to establish the objective criteria that social security looks for. Even if it doesn’t meet that criteria under the listings that I’ve talked about, it is still important because you still could be approved depending on how bad your problems are. So, the first thing to do is to make sure you see doctors. There are two more things.

Second, make sure to take your medications. When you see doctors and there are inhalers or nebulizers, things of that sort, it is important to take your medications. It can be hard if you don’t have insurance or at least difficulties with insurance, I understand that, but if at all possible, social security needs to know that you are doing everything to get better. They will not consider breathing problems that are your fault, at least some that think it is your fault because you are not taking medications available for you and prescribed for you to help.

The third thing to keep in mind with breathing problems is that you need to track your symptoms. Now this is something I tell my clients. It is important to help with regard to your doctors, and it is important to track, for instance, how often you use your albuterol inhaler. That would be one example. Other than taking medication, there are some medications you take based on need. An actual question is: how often do you need it? Are you going to the ER frequently? Hopefully you can avoid the ER, but if you are going frequently, then there is a hint that the medications aren’t working. Or if they are working, there is a hint that the problems are progressing beyond the point that doctors can help you at the moment.

Keep in mind that these three ideas: seeing doctors, taking your medications, and tracking symptoms are important for your health, but they are also important to document for the sake of a social security hearing. There are two levels below before a social security hearing. But at a social security hearing, a judge will meet and talk with you and with your attorney about what’s wrong. As an attorney, I make opening statements and arguments that the problems are severe enough that sit down work is not possible depending on your situation and age, for instance age 50 allows you to have less stringent standards to be approved for benefits. But regardless of the problems you have, if they do not meet the definition of disability, or if you have chronic problems that exacerbations that affect your day-to-day life, then fulltime employment may not be possible, which is essentially what you need to prove. That you would miss more than two days a month of work or can’t maintain fulltime work, or perhaps in unique circumstances you are so sensitive to your environment you may not be able to avoid a colleague with lets say perfume.

These are basic ideas and hopefully this video gave you a sense of what you need to do to help yourself and certainly what you need to do to prove what’s wrong with you so social security can see it through your doctors eyes. If you have more questions about breathing problems or if you have more questions about social security in general feel free to go to our website at Also, feel free to call us if you are thinking of applying for benefits or if you already applied and need to appeal. Our phone number is 1-800-850-7867. Thank you very much.”