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Can Sleep Apnea Sufferers Get Disability Benefits?

Posted On March 12, 2014
March 12, 2014

Daytime sleepiness, lack of concentration, fatigue and morning headaches have all piled up and led to this point. These issues have taken such a toll and negatively impacted your life that you are unable to function at work on a daily basis. You know the cause of your sleep disturbances: sleep apnea. Is there an answer or solution? Can sleep apnea sufferers get disability benefits?

If the symptoms described above sound familiar, then you too might have sleep apnea. This condition can be classified as either obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or central sleep apnea (CSA). With OSA, the pauses in breathing occur during the night due to an obstruction in your airway. With CSA, the brain misinterprets oxygen and carbon dioxide levels and proper breathing is interrupted. Treatment can range from continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to oral appliances to radiofrequency ablation (RFA), to name a few. But in order for treatment to help decrease your symptoms, you must be properly diagnosed and compliant with prescribed therapy. Unfortunately, current statistics estimate that close to 80% of people with sleep apnea are undiagnosed and have not sought treatment, which places them at high risk for developing a host of life-threatening illnesses.

Disability Benefits for Sleep Apnea Sufferers

If you suffer from sleep apnea, in order to qualify for disability benefits, you must be properly assessed. You need to have your residual functional capacity (RFC) determined, which is the type of and your ability to work in spite of disability. Used by the Social Security Administration (SSA), the RFC quantifies how symptoms such as fatigue would affect your capabilities to perform job responsibilities. The RFC assessment also must document any other underlying conditions beside sleep apnea. In a sense, RFC assists the SSA in determining your lack of capacity to work.

There are very specific criteria that the SSA uses for evaluation, which can be found in a manual known as the ‘Blue Book.’ The criteria are looked at in conjunction with medical vocational allowance. The SSA wants to know the extent to which the claimant is functionally disabled.

The SSA denies the majority of disability claims because there are very few jobs that would prevent a person with sleep apnea-related symptoms to not be able to work. Your sleep apnea symptoms have to be extremely severe to qualify for benefits. For instance, mood disturbances limited your social interaction, memory loss caused your IQ to drop at least 15 points and personality changes prompted poor impulse control. However, if you also have other health complications that have evolved due to your sleep apnea, you will probably be approved for disability benefits.

Nevertheless, it is important to have a thorough medical evaluation along with written documentation from a physician that details your condition. If you have sought sleep apnea treatment and it has not helped, this piece of information is also important in determining possible disability benefits.

If you are worried that your disability claim may be denied despite thorough documentation and assistance from your physician, you may want to seek the counsel of an advocate or lawyer who specializes in disability claims.

If you believe you have sleep apnea and would like to know for sure, contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 to schedule a free consultation.


About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Communications for Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America, manages all content and communications for the company.
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