The Impact of California Wildfires on the Disabled

Can wildfires cause or worsen disabilities that qualify for SSDI?

California Social Security disability insurance attorneys don’t only worry about how repeated widespread California wildfires will impact their own health and safety, but they also worry about their current and future clients’ health.

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”), applicants must have worked for a requisite number of years and hours, and must have paid into the Social Security tax system during those years. In addition, they must satisfy the government’s definition of being “disabled”. Specifically, they must suffer from a physical or mental impairment that has lasted or is expected to last 12 months or more or result in death and must be unable of performing any “substantial gainful activity”.

There is an extensive list of physical and mental impairments that the Social Security Administration recognizes as qualifying medical conditions. Among that list are lung- related conditions such as cancer (including mesothelioma), COPD, emphysema, and asthma.

Officials warn that the California wildfires may have released potentially deadly asbestos fibers and other toxins into the air and onto surfaces, creating a serious health care risk to those who come in contact with the smoke, dust, and ash. The asbestos fibers when inhaled or ingested “can lead to serious health conditions such as mesothelioma, a cancer that usually develops on the lining of the lungs or abdomen.”

Doctors and health officials recommend the following precautions during an active fire as well as when handling materials for cleaning up debris after a fire:

use N95-rated facemasks because shielding your mouth and nose with your hand, shirt, a scarf, dust masks, or surgical masks, “aren’t effective at filtering hazardous particles such as asbestos”

use HEPA filter vacuums to remove ash

use damp cloths to wipe surfaces covered in asbestos, dust or ash

wear gloves, pants, and long-sleeved shirts to shield skin from absorbing dioxin-contaminated ash.

If you or a loved one has questions about applying for Social Security disability benefits or needs help appealing a denial of benefits, The Law Firm of Peňa & Bromberg can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Fresno, we serve disabled clients, veterans, and their families in all aspects of disability law throughout Central Valley California and the United States.

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