Lung disease is a broad category of disability that is covered under the Social Security Administration’s respiratory disorder listing. It encompasses any respiratory disorder that either restricts or obstructs the flow of oxygen in to (restriction) or out of (obstruction) the lungs, or which interferes with the diffusion of oxygen across cell membranes.

Lung disease and SSD benefits

The respiratory disorders listing of the SSA blue book includes several illnesses that qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits if the criteria for each disease are met. The types of lung disease that may entitle you to SSD benefits include:

  • Chronic respiratory disorders, such as COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, pneumoconiosis and bronchiectasis;
  • Chronic bronchitis;
  • Emphysema;
  • Asthma;
  • Cystic fibrosis;
  • Respiratory failure;
  • Chronic pulmonary hypertension, and;
  • Lung transplant


Depending on your specific diagnosis, signs and symptoms of lung disease may include:

  • Shortness of breath;
  • Coughing or wheezing;
  • Chest pain;
  • Sputum production;
  • Blood from the respiratory tract, or;
  • Tachypnea (increased rate of breathing)

Documentation of lung disease for SSD benefits

To qualify for SSD benefits you must provide the SSA with medical information that documents the lung disease diagnosis – a letter stating that you suffer from lung disease, no matter the type, is insufficient proof and will result in an automatic denial of benefits. Each respiratory disorder has its own set of criteria that must be met to qualify for SSD benefits, but generally your application should include any of the following, which should document not only the diagnosis, but support signs and symptoms of the particular disease:  

  • Medical history;
  • Examination findings;
  • Laboratory or diagnostic tests, including imaging, ultrasound, pulmonary function tests and other relevant tests, along with the results of such tests; and;
  • Prescribed treatment and the response to such treatment, positive or negative


In addition, you may include non-medical evidence, such as statements from yourself or others, detailing how the disease affects your ability to work. The more information you can provide detailing the disease and its impact on your daily life and ability to work, the better the chance of approval.

Lung Disease and SSD Benefits Success Stories

We recently helped a 51-year-old woman who suffered from respiratory failure obtain SSD benefits. Ms. Smith’s respiratory issues required intubation, and she suffered from several other medical conditions that made her unable to continue working as a server. Her application was denied at both the initial and reconsideration levels, and our office stepped in to assist with an administrative appeal.

On appeal, we proved that Ms. Smith suffered from stress-induced heart failure, which among other symptoms caused shortness of breath. She also suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema and asthma. Combined with her other ailments, which included seizures, heart problems and difficulties using her upper extremities due to a torn rotator cuff, the administrative law judge ruled that Ms. Smith was not only unable to return to her prior line of work, but was unable to participate in any vocation and approved her application for benefits.

We were also able to help 48-year-old Anne Jones obtain SSD benefits following an administrative hearing. Ms. Jones worked on an assembly line and was diagnosed with asthma so severe that it had required hospitalization in the past. She suffered from shortness of breath, chest pains, coughing and wheezing, and used an inhaler two to three times per day. In addition to the asthma, Ms. Jones was also diagnosed with moderately severe obstruction of her lungs. 

On appeal, we proved that Ms. Jones’ asthma, in combination with her other medical conditions, which included depressive syndrome and physical disabilities, made her unable to continue to work in any capacity. Based on the evidence, the administrative law judge reversed the earlier denials and awarded Ms. Jones SSD benefits.

Resources for those diagnosed with lung disease

If you have been diagnosed with lung disease, there are a variety of online resources that provide information, research, and support. Some deal broadly with lung disorders, with pages dedicated to specific types of lung diseases, while others are disease specific.

The American Lung Association provides information on a variety of lung diseases, education campaigns, links to local affiliates and access to support groups, both online and in-person. The site also includes help with quitting smoking, which can alleviate or eliminate the symptoms of many lung disorders.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation contains information on CF and living with the disease, help navigating financial resources to pay for treatment  (such as insurance and Medicaid), the latest research and links to local care centers.

If you are applying for SSD Benefits and have a Lung Disease consider the Law Office of Neil H. Good for your representation. Complete this form for a free online evaluation or call #(847) 577-4476.