Across the United States, more than 25 million Americans have asthma. The number of people affected by this incredibly common disease has been steadily increasing since the early 1980s. Today, 1 in 13 Americans have been diagnosed with asthma.
While many people are familiar with asthma — and likely know someone who has it — what they may not realize is how it can impact a person’s life. Beyond causing a sudden attack that requires a trip to the emergency room, asthma is responsible for 9.8 million visits to the doctor’s office each year — and 188,968 discharges from hospital inpatient care.
Asthma has the potential to be deadly, particularly without prompt medical care. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every day, 10 Americans die from asthma. Adults are 4 times more likely to die from asthma than children.
These numbers are scary — and they are important to understand when it comes to disability benefits. While millions of people live normally with asthma, others struggle with the impact of this serious condition on their daily lives. For these people, asthma makes it difficult — or impossible — to hold down a regular job.
If your asthma affects your life in a significant way, you may qualify for long-term disability benefits. Getting a proper diagnosis and properly documenting the ways in which your asthma limits your ability to perform your work is critical to being approved for benefits.
What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a respiratory condition where a person’s airways narrow, swell, and produce extra mucus. This can make it difficult to breathe, and result in coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Asthma episodes may be classified as either chronic or acute.
Individuals experience asthma differently. For some, it is a relatively minor condition that is easily controlled. For others, asthma interferes with daily activities and can lead to a life-threatening asthma attack.
The signs and symptoms of asthma include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness or pain
- Coughing or wheezing attacks that are made worse by respiratory illnesses, such as a cold or the flu
- A whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling
- Difficulty sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing
Asthma may flare up in certain situations, such as by exposure to allergens, exercise, or through exposure to workplace irritants. There are a number of possible asthma triggers, including:
- Respiratory infections
- Physical activity
- Airborne substances (pollen, dust mites, mold spores, pet dander, particles of cockroach waste)
- Cold air
- Strong emotions and stress
- Air pollutants and irritants, such as smoke
- Sulfites and preservatives added to some foods and beverages
- Certain medications, including aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and beta blockers
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Asthma cannot be cured. Its symptoms can often be controlled through medication, although many of these medications only work in the short-term and have serious side effects. Severe asthma attacks can be life-threatening and require emergency treatment.
Qualifying for LTD Benefits with Asthma
Long-term disability (LTD) insurance offers benefits to individuals who are unable to work due to a disability. Typically, a LTD policy will pay a percentage of your salary (often 50 to 60%) for a set period of time, which may be limited to a few years or until retirement age. LTD benefits require a waiting period before applying, which may be 6 months or longer after the onset of the disability.
To qualify for LTD benefits due to asthma, you will have to prove that it meets the definition of a disability under the terms of your policy. Generally, this requires proving that your asthma seriously impairs your activities of daily living as well as your ability to perform work.
For example, if you have persistent asthma attacks that last at least one day and require intensive treatment, that may be considered a disability as it would likely impair your ability to work. Alternatively, if you regularly have acute asthma attacks that necessitate hospitalization or treatment from a doctor, then your condition may be severe enough to qualify for LTD benefits.
To be eligible for LTD benefits, you must provide evidence that you have asthma. This is typically done through medical records, such as an official diagnosis from your doctor, treatment records and the results from tests. A diagnosis should specify the type of asthma that you have and describe the severity of your condition; this information can help you in obtaining coverage.
A physical exam can rule out other lung conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or a respiratory infection. Other tests can measure your lung function to determine how much air moves in and out of your lungs, such as spirometry or peak flow tests. Your doctor may conduct other tests to diagnose asthma, including allergy tests, methacholine challenge, sputum eosinophils, or provocative testing for exercise and cold-induced asthma.
In addition, you should explain how and why your asthma prevents you from performing your job duties. For example, asthma attacks or poorly-controlled chronic asthma may result in frequent sick days, causing you to fall behind on your work. Alternatively, coughing and wheezing at night may lead to fatigue — making it difficult to focus on work during the day.
You may also find that your asthma is triggered by your work environment. The perfumes worn by co-workers, cleaning agents used in the office or even dust and mold in the air can trigger asthma attacks. You may need to take a break to recover, or even to seek treatment, impacting your productivity.
If your asthma symptoms are inflamed by work, it would be helpful to have your treating physician write a letter detailing how your job duties impact your health. For example, lifting heavy boxes or going up and down stairs may cause shortness of breath or coughing. This information may be particularly useful in proving that your asthma prevents you from working.
How a Long-Term Disability Benefits Lawyer Can Help
Millions of Americans suffer from asthma. While many people are able to live and work with asthma with few limitations, others are severely limited due to the nature of this condition. For some, their asthma is serious enough that even mundane, everyday activities can be life-threatening.
At Bross & Frankel, we understand that asthma can be disabling — particularly for those who suffer with chronic and severe forms of this disease. We are dedicated to helping individuals with asthma obtain long-term disability benefits so that they can focus on what is important: their health. To learn more about how we can help or to schedule a free claim review with a New Jersey disability benefits attorney, contact our office today at 856-795-8880, or reach out online.