Is Asthma a Disability?
What is a disability?
Let’s start with Cambridge Dictionary.
“A physical or mental condition that makes someone unable to act in a way that is considered usual for most people.”1
So, here is how the American’s with Disability Act (ADA) defines disability:
“A person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. This includes people who have a record of such an impairment, even if they do not currently have a disability."2
I suppose asthma could qualify under this definition. You can’t breathe. You certainly can’t work. But, I think most people asking this question want to know if they qualify for disability. My answer is: It depends. It depends on whether you are seeking short or long-term disability.
What is short-term disability?
Some states, like California, require employers to offer disability insurance. Here in Michigan the state offers no such insurance. Plus, it’s not required for your employer to offer it. So, it’s not required. But, fortunately, my place of employment offers it.3-4
I have qualified for this before. And it’s nice. You have an asthma attack. You end up in the emergency room. You end up being admitted to the hospital a week or two. Your doctor wants you to rest a week after you’re discharged.
So, what you do is call your Human Resources Department. Or, what I did was just talk to my boss. She set me up with all the papers. Actually, she filled out the papers. And all I had to do was a sign.
And I think they only cover 70% of your wages. But, still, that’s better than nothing. And it helps pay your bills while you’re off work.
What is long-term disability?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is insurance you put into every paycheck. Your cut is 6.2% of your net income. Your employer’s cut is also 6.2%. So, you put into it in case you become disabled before retirement age.5
It’s meant to supplement any other income you might receive due to your disability. It’s to assure you are able to continue paying your bills despite not being able to work due to your disability.6
If you are unable to work long-term due to asthma you can apply. You can get an application at any Social Security Office. You can also call 1-800-772-1213. A representative will take your application over the phone. You can also apply online.7
So, you have many options.
If you are unable to work long-term due to asthma you can apply. At some point you will have to undergo a physical examination. The doctor will make sure you are actually disabled and not faking a disability. You will probably have to undergo a PFT to prove you have airflow limitation that is only partially reversible with treatment.
I have a friend who applied for SSDI and was approved. He said he was at first rejected. He hired a lawyer to file an appeal. So, he recommended not to give up just because your application is denied.
The application process can be quite lengthy. This is because of all the people applying. It’s also because of all the testing you may have to undertake to prove you are unable to work.6
It’s also because, to qualify for SSDI, you have to prove you have a severe disability. Not only that, you have to prove it will prevent you from working for up to 12 months.7-8
So, can asthma qualify you for SSDI?
Let’s just look at statistics. Studies show that 90-95% of asthmatics can obtain control of their asthma with conventional asthma medicines. Good asthma control means you are able to do most of the things you want. It also means that you probably can work. Sure, there may be limits to what you can do, but you can certainly work.9
So, that means there are 5-10% of asthmatics with severe asthma. Their asthma may remain poorly controlled despite conventional asthma medicines. Many of these asthmatics can still help them obtain some degree of control. So, they can usually continue working. There may be limits on what jobs they can do, but they most certainly can work. But some may be unable to work and may qualify for disability.
What to make of this?
So, any of us asthmatics may qualify for short-term disability at times. But, only in rare instances does asthma qualify as a long-term disability.
Have you ever gotten "moon face" as a side effect of prednisone?