Q How does the Social Security Administration use functional capacity to evaluate my asthma disability claim?
Asthma is a serious disease that causes obstructed breathing. When a person with asthma suffers an “episode,” or an asthma attack, his airways constrict and become inflamed. This inflammation narrows the passageway, making it difficult to breathe. Depending on the severity of an attack, the victim is at risk for a variety of dangers, including mild to severe chest pains, breathing difficulties, hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain), blackouts, and even death.
An asthma attack can be disruptive in the workplace. It may frighten customers and limit the ability of a worker to function. As a result of functional capacity limitations, the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers severe cases of asthma potentially disabling.
Asthma Requirements for Consideration
In order to qualify for disability, your condition must affect your ability to work. If your condition physically prevents you from doing your job or places you at risk for suffering an attack, you may need to rely on disability benefits to support your family. However, it’s important to note that only severe cases are considered for approval. Occasional bouts of inflammation or minor attacks that can be controlled by using medication such as inhalers aren’t considered to limit functional capacity enough to warrant disability.
For the SSA to recognize your condition as severe, your claim must adequately show the results of respiratory function tests. These tests can evaluate…
- Spirometry: the measure of how much air you take into the lungs with each breath.
- Peak flow: the measure of your ability to push air out of your lungs.
- ABG (arterial blood gas): the measure of carbon dioxide and its pressure within the blood.
- DLCO (diffusing capacity of the lungs for carbon monoxide): the measurements of the gas exchange (oxygen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide) across cell membranes in your lungs.
- Pulse oximetry: the measure of oxygen saturation within the blood.
If your test results fall within the SSA limitations for respiratory disability, your claim will be considered for approval. If your results don’t qualify under the limitations, you may still be eligible for benefits if you can convince the SSA that your condition significantly affects your functional capacity.
Proving Functional Capacity Limitations
The measured ability to complete tasks in spite of your condition is referred to as your “functional capacity.” When your condition causes frequent and extreme attacks, your ability to be a reliable employee greatly diminishes, which in turn, can compromise your employment. To convince the SSA that your functional capacity is low enough to warrant disability, you must be able to show that your condition will not allow you to sustain employment. You can help illustrate your decreased functional capacity by including the following with your claim:
- A symptom journal. A detailed journal of your symptoms, including what you were doing when the attack occurred and what happened as a result of the episode, can help you and the SSA follow the deterioration of your condition. Rather than including a statement that you regularly experience attacks at work, your journal can recount the exact dates, frequency, and effects of those attacks. The SSA is more likely to understand your condition’s severity and need for disability if they can see it in black and white.
- Personal PEF records. If you’ve ever had to make a graph or grid, you know that one data point isn’t enough to show anything. However, if you routinely record your peak flow measurements over an extended period, you can use those data points to show the SSA how your breathing fluctuates. Again, the SSA is persuaded by data and evidence that they can see and analyze themselves. Including your records along with physician records can help them better relate to why you feel you can’t work.
Help With Your Disability Application
Do you have questions about applying for asthma-related disability? Request a complimentary copy of attorney John Keefe’s book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process. For a more direct approach, contact our office directly at 508-283-5500 to schedule a one-on-one consultation to discuss your claim. The meeting is FREE, so you have nothing to lose.