Can I Get Social Security Disability for Wildfire Smoke Inhalation?

Social Security Disability for Smoke Inhalation

In 2020 between January 1st and August 31st there were 39,829 wildfires – 6,300 more fires than during the same period in 2019. Tragically, more than 4 million acres have burned so far this year.  3,749 building were destroyed in these fires this year alone. And, sadly 9 deaths were directly attributable to wildfires in 2020.

Thousands of California residents have been evacuated due to wildfires in 2020 – and many of these individuals were exposed to smoke in the process.

Inhalation of toxic smoke is the primary cause of death from any type of fire. And the long term effects of exposure to smoke from wildfires can take weeks, months or sometimes even years to appear.

Smoke inhalation causes both acute and chronic diseases, including long-term lung and neurological damage. This is because many toxic products are released during a fire. The type of toxins emitted and inhaled – and the resulting long term effects – will depend upon what substance was being burned, and are hard to predict.

Can I get Social Security Disability for Smoke Inhalation?

However, if a person who was exposed to smoke develops a condition that is severe enough to keep them from working for at least 12 months (and they have enough Social Security “work credits”) they can qualify for Social Security Disability.

(Note: if they do not have enough work credits to qualify for Social Security Disability, they may still qualify for SSI.)

When reviewing your case, the Social Security Administration will take into consideration your age, your education, and your past work when deciding whether you are “unable to work” and should be found disabled.

One condition that smoke inhalation may cause or aggravate is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – usually referred to as COPD. This is a series of lung diseases in which airflow is blocked, affecting a person’s ability to breathe. More than 15 million Americans suffer from COPD.

Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the two most common manifestations of COPD – both of which could be caused by (or aggravated by) smoke inhalation. While treatment advances in COPD are being made, it is not currently curable – meaning that patients must generally undergo treatment for the rest of their lives.

As a result, many individuals suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease are unable to work – making them eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits.

How Smoke Inhalation Damages the Lungs

Serious lung injury from exposure to smoke can be the result of exposure to hydrogen chloride, carbon monoxide (CO) and cyanide. Contact with these irritants cause cellular damage –resulting in the cells releasing fluids, causing massive edema as well as a severe inflammatory responses.

Irritants from smoke inhalation also include particulate matter such as soot which are inhaled deep into the lungs, where the carbon causes direct lung damage – by forming free oxygen radicals that damage lung structures such as the cilia and alveolar surfaces.

Aldehydes and acrolein are also released when wood burns – which are highly toxic to lung tissue, causing protein destruction the deep within the lungs.

Inhalation of any or all of these irritants causes immediate and long term lung damage and swelling to the upper airways. Deeper airways will also spasm and swell, and terminal airways are often destroyed. When the cilia are damaged, the soot and fluid cannot be removed from the lungs.

Presentation of corrosive lung injury due to smoke inhalation may take hours, days or months. But remember, you do not have to prove what caused the lung injury in order to collect Social Security Disability. You only have to prove that your lung disease makes you unable to work for a year or more in order to collect Social Security Disability benefits.

 Long Beach Social Security Lawyers – Smoke Inhalation

If you are disabled due to burns, smoke inhalation, or any other illness or injury, and believe you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits, our experienced Long Beach Social Security lawyers will offer you a free consultation. Our lawyers can explain how much you may be able to collect, how long it may take, and the best way to ensure you receive the maximum Social Security Disability benefits for which you qualify.

Long Beach Social Security Lawyer: 562-622-4800