Chronic asthmatic bronchitis refers to an underlying asthmatic problem in patients where asthma has become so persistent that clinically significant chronic airflow obstruction is present despite anti-asthmatic therapy.

Bronchitis and asthma are two inflammatory airway conditions. Bronchitis is inflammation of the airways that is usually caused by viral or bacterial infections. Chronic bronchitis can be triggered by long-term exposure to environmental irritants such as tobacco smoke, dust, or chemicals.

Asthma is an inflammatory condition that leads to tightening of the muscles around the airways and swelling, which cause airways to narrow.

When the two conditions coexist, it is called asthmatic bronchitis.

Symptoms include wheezing, cough, and shortness of breath. Distinction between these three disorders is clinically difficult.


Asthmatic Bronchitis can cause symptoms and restrictions that can impact your ability to work. Social Security Disability benefits may be available to you if you are diagnosed with Asthmatic Bronchitis.

If you are not engaging in gainful activity due to asthmatic bronchitis, the Social Security Administration must determine if you have an impairment that is “severe.” This is step 2 of the evaluation process. (Visit my prior blog post explaining the steps of Social Security’s Sequential Evaluation Process.)

Generally, to establish Asthmatic Bronchitis as a medically determinable severe impairment, you must show:

  • Objective medical testing establishing pulmonary insufficiency; and/or
  • Consistent and repeated attacks despite treatment

At step 3 of the Sequential Evaluation Process, the SSA determines if your condition meets a listing. For asthmatic bronchitis, SSA will determine if your condition meets either Listing 3.02 or 3.03

  • 3.02 can be met if your asthmatic bronchitis causes chronic pulmonary insufficiency as indicated by a pulmonary function study with an FEV1 less than or equal to the value on a chart provided in the listing
  • 3.03 can be met either by meeting Listing 3.02 or by establishing attacks in spite of prescribed treatment and requiring physician intervention, occurring at least once every 2 months or, at least, six times a year.

The key to meeting the listing is to have the appropriate objective medical testing and a longitudinal medical history that addresses each of the requirements. In most cases, in my experience, the medical listing will not be met, but having a good knowledge of what you have to prove can help you discuss your case with your doctor.

If your related symptoms do not equal a listing, the Social Security Administration will next assess your residual functional capacity (RFC) (the work you can still do, despite your asthmatic bronchitis), to determine whether you qualify for benefits at steps 4 and 5 of the Sequential Evaluation Process. The lower your RFC, the less the Social Security Administration believes you can do. In determining your RFC, the Social Security Administration adjudicator should consider all of your symptoms in deciding how they may affect your ability to function.


  1. Make sure a pulmonary function study establishing the severity of your asthmatic bronchitis or pulmonary insufficiency is in your medical records. It is important that you “know your medical records.”
  2. Make sure your medical records document ALL of your symptoms and limitations. Your medical records should not just document your shortness of breath. Let your doctor how often you feel the symptoms, how severe each episode is and how long each episode lasts. Make sure that all your medical problems are adequately documented by your doctor, and that you are receiving the appropriate medical attention for all of your disabling symptoms. Make sure any side effects of medication are noted in your records.
  3. See a specialist. Treatment of asthmatic bronchitis by a pulmonologist, allergy specialist or asthma specialist will carry more weight than the same diagnosis from a family physician or internist professional.
  4. Comply with your doctor’s orders and try various modes of conservative or less invasive treatment, if recommended.
  5. See a mental health professional. If you are suffering from depression or anxiety as a result of the chronic problems and inability to participate in life, see a mental health professional to diagnose, treat, and document these conditions.
  6. See your doctor regularly and keep your appointments.
  7. If you can, provide evidence of a long work history.
  8. Provide examples of unsuccessful attempts to return to work and/or unsuccessful attempts to work in a decreased capacity.
  9. Include information from non-medical sources to support your medical claims. Gather Information from neighbors, friends, relatives, clergy, and/or past employers about your impairments and how they affect your function. Have them document changes that they have seen in your ability over time.  These are not given nearly as much weight as testimony from a medical professional, but they don’t hurt.
  10. Keep a journal. Make regular notes about your impairment, level of function, and treatments.
  11. If you need assistance with your claim, contact an attorney who specializes in Social Security Disability.
Loyd J. Bourgeois
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Accident, injury, and disability lawyer serving Luling, Metairie, New Orleans, and South Louisiana