29 March

Is Asthma a Disability? Everything You Need to Know

Well, quite a number of those living in the United States have an asthmatic condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 25 million Americans have the condition. Besides, the condition is the most common chronic condition affecting children.

However, if you were to ask them whether the condition is a disability, you will unlikely find a "yes" answer. Most of these people have been living with the illness in their entire life and have never felt disabled by it, despite the frustrations associated with the condition.

Asthma is a condition that causes extensive coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. This is caused by inflammation of bronchial tubes. Asthmatic attacks usually are sudden and severe, making it challenging to undertake certain physical activities.

Genetic factors mainly cause the condition. However, other cases are always a result of environmental factors, directly resulting from a workplace or social activities. So, is asthma disability?

Let's first explore the condition in depth.

Asthma Symptoms

The condition's symptoms vary from one individual to the other. Others might have frequent attacks, while others might experience irregular attacks. Some of the common signs and symptoms include:

  • Chest pains
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Sleeping troubles
  • Extensive coughs
  • Talking difficulties
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiousness
young man having chest pain

Nonetheless, not all asthma patients will experience all these symptoms. The symptoms usually depend on the type of asthmatic condition. The common types of asthma include:

  • Allergic asthma: This type of asthma is triggered by allergens such as pollen, dust, food, pet dander, and mold. However, they are always seasonal with minimal attacks.
  • Nonallergic asthma: Also known as intrinsic asthma. They are caused by irritants in the air, such as air pollution, cigarette smoke, cold air, and burning wood. Other irritants include air fresheners, perfumes, and viral illnesses.
  • Occupational Asthma: This is a type of asthma caused by triggers in the workplace. The likely triggers include dyes, dust, fumes and gases, rubber latex, and industrial chemicals.
  • Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB): Physical exercises trigger this type of asthma.

Other asthma types include aspirin-induced asthma, nocturnal asthma, and cough-variant asthma (CVA).

Classifications of Asthma

Asthma usually is classified based on the severity of the symptoms. The classifications include:

  • Intermittent: several individuals have this type of asthma. The symptoms are always mild, hence don't interfere with one's daily activities.
  • Mild Persistent: The symptoms don't occur daily. In most cases, they happen twice a week.
  • Moderate Persistent: The symptoms are likely to occur daily. However, they might limit one's daily undertakings.
  • Severe Persistent: Attacks occur severally with a day and on most nights. These attacks significantly limit your daily activities.

In most cases, asthma can effectively be treated with appropriate mediation. Unfortunately, in some rare cases, the condition might unlikely be treated.

Hence, a patient might continue to experience regular asthma attacks. With this, an individual might find it challenging to work full-time. These causes disability.

How Do We Define Disability?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines disability as "A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history of such impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment."

The major life activities, in this case, include breathing, working, eating, among others. The federal civil rights law gives disabled people the right to ask for changes in practices or conditions that put them at a disadvantage.

As a person with a disability, you will be able to enjoy full access to services and places such as hotels, schools, stores, and many more.

How Does Asthma Qualify as Disability?

From the ADA's definition of disability, a medical condition qualifies as a disability that prevents one from performing their daily tasks. Asthma, especially severe persistent asthma, could make it impossible for individuals to perform in their workplace. The most affected individuals work in manufacturing industries that emit lots of pollutants in the air triggering asthmatic attacks.

Initially, asthma and other allergic conditions were not considered disability mainly because the symptoms were easily manageable with appropriate treatment plans. However, after reviews, the Act was expanded to include asthmatic disease and other allergies. Hence, under the current ADA, you qualify to be covered under the Act, despite having occasional attacks. Interestingly, the ADA helps in creating serene environments for asthma patients to help avoid triggers.

How ADA Works

ADA plays a significant role in helping people with asthma. It helps create safer environments free from asthma triggers, be it in their workplace, eateries, shops, or other public amenities.

Additionally, it provides aid to students attending non-religious private schools and other public schools for school-going asthma patients. ADA also advocates for the collaboration between different parties to promote equal access and improve persons with disabilities' living conditions. This is referred to as accommodations.

Accommodations vary from one person to the other since every individual has specific needs depending on the situation. Some of the ordinary accommodations include:

  • Changing office layouts to reduce odors
  • Having favorable working schedules according to the needs of the persons with disabilities
  • Removing old carpets and curtains, which might likely attract dust, among other asthma triggers

Nevertheless, an organization or company must consider various options before settling on the best accommodation criteria. This will help minimize the costs involved with changing programs and redesigning the office layouts.

Asthma Disability Benefits

Asthma patients, just as other persons with disabilities, qualify for disability benefits. One can be eligible by first filing an application with the Social Security Administration. The respiratory condition is found under section 3.03 of the SSA Blue Book, which covers the respiratory system's conditions.

In most cases, adults develop the condition due to occupational factors. Hence, before making a disability claim from SSA, it is always vital to consult a social security disability lawyer as you might be entitled to damages from your employer.

Applying for Benefits from Social Security Administration

We all know that asthma symptoms might be severe or mild. Most asthma patients, especially those with mild symptoms, might work well despite their medical conditions, mainly with appropriate medication.

Because of this, the Social Security Administration has outlined specific criteria that one must meet to qualify for the Social Security Disability benefits. These will be based on the severity of the asthma symptoms. First, you must provide proof that:

  • You have been clinically diagnosed with asthma
  • Your asthma is severe, thus preventing you from engaging in activities that earn you a living
  • You have been following the treatment plan prescribed by your physician to help prevent asthma attacks

As evidence of the above requirements, you need to provide:

  • A treatment record for at least 12 consecutive months. This will help show the number of times you visited the hospital facility and were hospitalized due to asthma attacks.
  • Names and addresses of hospitals you had previously visited
  • Names and dosages of prescribed medication

One major factor that will be considered is the frequency of asthma attacks. To determine this, you will undergo medical care of a qualified and certified physician who will measure your airflow, especially when experiencing attacks.

Therefore, you will only qualify for the benefits if your asthma attacks require intensive treatment. Intensive treatment is defined as:

  • Intravenous bronchodilator
  • Antibiotic administration, or
  • Extensive inhalational bronchodilator therapy in a medical facility

Besides, the attacks must occur despite being under a medication plan, must occur at least six times annually, and must always require a doctor's attention.

Moreover, the other factor will be to determine your ability to perform daily activities, how the treatment affects your everyday life, and the extent to which you are disadvantaged by the condition.

It is undoubtedly true that asthma attacks might inhibit you from certain personal kinds of physical tasks. However, when applying for the social security benefit, you need to prove that the asthma attacks have affected your performance. Therefore, you must prove that you are currently not working or earning less than $1,220 monthly.

The organization will monitor the records of the work you have done in the past 15 years to determine whether you could still work despite your medical condition. If the records proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the condition had affected your performance, then you will be liable for social security benefits.

However, in some cases, your claim might be denied. It is always significant that you first consult a social security attorney before claiming the social security benefits. They are well experienced in the sector and will guide you through the process to ensure you have all the needed documents that might lead to approval.

Bottom Line

old man using inhaler

Most persons living with asthma don't consider themselves as persons living with disabilities, especially those having mild symptoms. Regardless of your symptoms and the severity of your condition, it is vital to know that you have certain rights protected under the ADA federal law.

The ADA helps provide you with a safer environment, ensuring that your condition doesn't disrupt your life. Besides, it is essential to know that you are eligible for social security disability benefits.