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Social Security Disability Benefits for people with Cystic Fibrosis

Introducing Deanna Power, the Director of Community Outreach for Social Security Disability Help. She wrote this article for our community at CysticFibrosis.com to help shed light on the subject of applying for disability benefits.


Applying for Disability Benefits with Cystic Fibrosis



by Deanna Power


Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary medical condition that causes an overproduction of thick mucus in your lungs and pancreas, leading to lung infections, breathing difficulties, pulmonary or heart failure, as well as digestion and sleep issues.

If your cystic fibrosis or its symptoms make it difficult for you to work or reasonably hold a job, you may be qualified to receive disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA). These benefits can help you pay your medical bills and everyday living expenses. To be eligible for disability benefits for your cystic fibrosis, there are certain financial and medical criteria you must meet.


Forms of Disability Benefits



There are two main forms of disability benefits with different technical qualifications for each.

The first type, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), is dependent on the amount of time you have worked and how much you have paid through employment taxes. To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must be an adult under 66 years old and have earned a certain number of work credits, which is an amount of taxable income. Generally speaking, anyone who’s worked a minimum-wage job full time for any five of the past ten years will qualify for SSDI benefits.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are financial-need based and do not have anything to do with your work history. To qualify, you must not be earning a high income and own less than $2,000 in assets, or $3,000 if married.

To financially qualify for either form of benefits, you must not earn more than $1,130 in wages per month to qualify for SSDI benefits or $733 per month to qualify for SSI benefits from any type of employment. This amount changes each year, and this limit is for 2016.


Blue Book Listing for Cystic Fibrosis



The SSA uses the Blue Book, a comprehensive list of medical conditions and their symptoms, to determine whether or not you medically qualify for disability benefits. Currently, cystic fibrosis is included under the Blue Book list of respiratory illnesses in Section 3.04.

To medically qualify for disability benefits with cystic fibrosis, the SSA will determine if you meet one of three criteria listed for this condition in the Blue Book:

  • Your Forced Expiratory Value (FEV) is equal to or less than a certain value based on your height without shoes. FEV is how much air you can push out of your lungs in one second. Table IV in Section 3 of the Blue Book gives a detailed account of what your FEV should be based on your height to meet the criteria.

  • You have episodes of bronchitis, pneumonia, hemoptysis, or respiratory failure that require your physician’s treatment every two months or six times in a year. If you were in the hospital for over 24 hours, it counts as two episodes. A year means twelve consecutive months.

  • At least once every six months, you suffer a pulmonary infection as well as a persistent and severe bacterial infection that requires nebulization or intravenous treatment.


Start your Application



It is important to keep in mind that if you are working part time and earning more than the $1,130/$733 income limit, you will automatically be denied benefits, regardless of the severity of your cystic fibrosis.

You will also likely be denied benefits if you apply while receiving unemployment benefits. This is because the two programs contradict one another: Unemployment benefits are for people out of the workforce but looking for a job, while disability benefits are for people who are completely unable to work for at least one year. You can be receiving disability from an employer and still qualify, however.

To apply for disability benefits for your cystic fibrosis, you can fill out an application with the SSA online, over the phone, or in person at an office near you. Be sure to talk to your doctor and gather all of your relevant medical evidence. With any luck, your application will be approved quickly and you can get the financial assistance you need.


Deanna Power SS Help
Deanna Power is the Director of Community Outreach for Social Security Disability Help. She contributes articles to organizations across the country in the hopes of clarifying questions or concerns about the process of applying for Social Security disability benefits. For any additional information or assistance, you may email her at [email protected] DOT org


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1 Comment

  1. May 5, 2016 at 3:06 am


    Thank you for the helpful information about SSDI and SSI. I had an exceptional experience with my Social Security retirement and Medicare when I applied around my 65th birthday a year ago. My situation was straight forward and my wife was able to work until 65, making a decent salary and benefits like premium health insurance.

    My neighbor is desperately trying to find something like SSI although her situation is about as cobbled up as it gets. She’s not a CFer, however about 4 years ago she required emergency surgery for a perforated ulcer. A partial gastrectomy and and very invasive cleaning up the emptied stomach contents into her peritoneum resulted in dramatic changes.

    If she would have been insured, it’s likely that appropriate follow up would have addressed in a timely manner. She was slender prior to the incident and within 4 months after discharge, had dropped from 160 pounds to under 100 pounds! Being indigent, she was poorly treated especially in light of this urgent health situation. She not only has no body fat, her internal abdominal muscles are being thieved for protein. She’s dying.

    My wife and I have been trying desperately to save her life by paying for medical appointments like specialized nutritional counseling and dietary requirements for reversing the now rapid decline. We buy food, nutritional supplements like extra high calorie drinks. We understand why we and not her “husband” isn’t doing anything. We have arranged for psychological counseling because she’s been victimized for too many years by a man who is an intelligent psychopath, narcissistic sociopath or such. He delights in phycological denigrating her, and anybody else he can victimize.

    Beginning two years ago, he started claiming her as a spousal dependant. After filing his taxes this year, he made the remark that he hoped that her estranged husband wasn’t claiming her, because he’d claimed her for the last 2 years. At best she’s been provided a roof over her head and he pays for her phone.

    The estranged husband is less clear. A truck driver, he abducted their children and the eldist daughter has been caring for the 2 younger kids. When he does file his taxes, it is believed that he’s claiming her. The IRS has recently caught up with him and the rumor is that he’s got a payment plan for back taxes. Bottom line, she hasn’t been able to make contact with him in years. The children are now 18 or older and she has been raising them by phone with frequent visits. They stay with us when they do.

    Through the children’s big ears and mouths, she has some information about her estranged husband but his contact information is strictly forbidden. I have no idea how this secrecy is maintained but the fact is she has been kept in the dark for a decade at least.

    I realize this is too much detail and it sounds like an absolute mess. It is. It is also a more common scenario than one might expect. This isn’t the first person my wife and I have involved ourselves with where a person with low self esteem is victimized by an abuser with a personality disorder. We have been specially trained in the rescue and restoration of long term relationships with abusers. We haven’t had any experience with abusers who by accident or design have destroyed any chance of getting SSDI, SSI or something similar.

    Any suggestions or advice would be appreciated. I need resources and information about how to quickly remedy her unintentional marriage to two men. Because of the sad reality that there are more people in similar circumstances, though probably not many entangled with two or more victimizers, id I’d appreciate an answer for anyone to read.

    Thank you,