Pneumonia and other lung infections are caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses. The symptoms of pneumonia, tuberculosis, and other lung infections include chest-pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, fever and chills, weight loss, and night sweats.
Can I Get Disability for My Lung Infection?
Most lung infections can be treated effectively in a short period of time; therefore, it may be hard to meet the standard SSA requirement that your disability last, or be expected to last, at least one year. If your lung infection has lasted less than 12 months when you apply, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must decide whether your infection is likely to last a year. To do this, the SSA will consider any tests you have undergone for your lung infection, any treatments you have received, how you have responded to treatment, whether you have had any complications, and the opinions of your treating doctors about your prognosis.
If your lung infection is determined to be chronic, you may be eligible for automatic approval under the SSA’s disability listing for persistent lung infections. The listing first requires that you be diagnosed with a fungal lung infection (such as fungal pneumonia), a mycobacterial lung infection (such as tuberculosis), or another chronic lung infection that has significantly impaired your lung function. If your chronic infections are characterized as bronchiectasis, see the separate disability listing for bronchiectasis.
Second, the SSA will require that you undergo a spirometry test to determine how the infection has affected your lung function. A spirometry test measures how much air you breathe in and out and at what rate you breathe; specifically, how much air you can force out in one second (known as FEV1). If your spirometry test demonstrates that your lung infection meets the listing requirements for chronic pulmonary insufficiency, your claim will be approved. For information on these listing requirements, see our article on chronic pulmonary insufficiency.
What If My Lung Infection Doesn't Meet a Listing?
You can still win your claim for disability even if your lung infection, pneumonia, or tuberculosis doesn’t meet a listing. At this point the SSA will prepare a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment to see how your lung infection has impacted your ability to do work-related activities. For example, if your lung infection damaged your lungs, but not to the extent required to meet the listing, you may need to avoid temperature extremes, dust or other air pollutants. These limitations will restrict what kind of jobs you can do. You may also require breaks throughout the day to use a nebulizer or other self-administered treatment.
You should also ask your doctor to prepare an RFC that details any work restrictions. Make sure you provide the necessary medical evidence to back your claim. Once the SSA reviews your RFCs it will determine whether there is any work you can do. For more information see our article on RFCs.
Standard Requirements for Disability
In addition to the 1-year requirement discussed above you may not earn more than $1,040 a month from working; also, your disability must interfere with your ability to do work related tasks.
If you are applying for SSDI you must have a significant work history with employers that paid Security tax. For more information on eligibility requirements see our section on SSDI.
SSI is a need-based benefit; this means the SSA will consider your income and other assets to see if you qualify. For more information see our section on SSI.