Photo of elderly Man with asthma inhalerBy Cendy Moliere

More than 24 million people in the United States live with asthma. But “what is asthma” It is a chronic disease that can cause shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing. Asthma attacks can be sudden and serious.

If you have asthma that is so bad you are unable to work, you can file a claim for Social Security disability benefits.

Disability benefits make it easier to cover living expenses like rent or a mortgage, food and utilities. The only requirement to be met to file a claim for disability benefits is that you expect to be unable to work for at least a year because of your condition.

How can you medically qualify for asthma disability benefits?

Asthma can make it impossible to work, especially if you work in an industry where there are often pollutants in the air.

The Social Security Administration’s Blue Book contains a list of the conditions that qualify for disability benefits. It has a listing for asthma. To meet the requirements you must have a diagnosis of asthma and it must be severe enough to require intensive treatments and make it impossible for you to work. The SSA considers “intensive” treatments to be:

  • intravenous bronchodilator
  • antibiotic administration
  • prolonged bronchodilator therapy in a hospital, emergency room or similar setting

If you don’t meet the requirement for intensive treatment or if your asthma flares aren’t prolonged or daily, you can still qualify for Social Security disability benefits under Medical Vocational Allowance.

What is the “Medical Vocational Allowance” for asthma?

The Medical Vocational Allowance exception makes it easier for people who can’t work because of their medical condition but who don’t meet the listing requirements in the Blue Book to get disability benefits.

To qualify under this exception, file a claim for disability benefits and check the box that asks for a Residual Functional Capacity evaluation. The Social Security Administration will perform the Residual Functional Capacity evaluation. They will examine your skills and your medical condition to see what type of full-time work you can do.

If the SSA determines there is no full-time work you can do, then you can qualify for disability benefits.

How to start the application process for disability benefits for asthma

To start your claim for disability benefits, gather all your asthma medical documents. Then start the claim online or make an appointment at your local SSA office.

If you need a Residual Functional Capacity evaluation, it’s a good idea to fill out the application in person to make sure it is submitted properly. A staff member at the SSA office can help you file your claim and any supporting documents.


Asthma and SSD
Blue Book Description
Residual Functional Capacity Form 
Find your local SSA Office

Cendy Moliere works for Disability Benefits Center, an independent organization dedicated to helping people of all ages and conditions receive Social Security disability benefits.