Can You Get Disability for Pneumoconiosis?

If your breathing tests show poor results, you can get disability benefits for pneumoconiosis.

Updated October 21, 2016

Pneumoconiosis is a lung disease caused by certain dusts that become lodged deep in the lungs and cause damage. Chronic exposure to dust from coal, graphite, man-made carbon, asbestos, and silica can cause the disease. Types of pneumoconiosis include "black-lung disease" or (coal worker's lung disease), asbestosis, and silicosis. Pneumoconiosis sometimes occurs with rheumatoid arthritis in Caplan Syndrome.

Pneumoconiosis can either be simple or complicated. While both forms of the disease cause shortness of breath and chronic coughing, simple pneumoconiosis is rarely disabling. Complicated pneumoconiosis, however, also known as progressive massive fibrosis or anthrosilicosis, results in severe lung scarring and eventually destroys normal lung tissue. It can lead to chronic bronchitis, heart and respiratory failure, or chronic obstructive respiratory disease.

To win approval for your disability claim based on pneumoconiosis, you must be diagnosed with the disease (confirmed by chest x-ray or other diagnostic imaging) and either meet the requirements of Social Security's disability listing for chronic respiratory disorders or be unable to work due to a doctor's limitations.

Social Security's listing for for chronic respiratory disorders, which was updated in October 2016, requires that you have had a lung function test that shows you have chronic pulmonary insufficiency (shown by certain low FEV1, FVC, DLCO, or ABG test scores) or have had at least three hospitalizations in the last year, each lasting at least 48 hours and occurring at least 30 days apart. For more information on how to meet Social Security's listing requirements, refer to our article on disability for chronic respiratory disorders.

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