Is Sleep Apnea a Disability?
Is sleep apnea a disability? For many people, it can be a serious and disabling medical condition that severely impacts their ability to work. Below, we discuss sleep apnea, how to file a disability claim, and what to do if your claim is denied.
Types of Sleep Apnea
If you are living with sleep apnea, you may experience interruptions in breathing during sleep. Sometimes these interruptions can last up to two minutes, or occur multiple times every night. Because of reduced oxygen to the brain and body, you may have fatigue during waking hours and wake up feeling tired.
There are three primary types of sleep apnea.
- Obstructive: This is the most common type of sleep apnea and occurs when the back of the throat relaxes or collapses, and prevents airflow.
- Central: This type originates in the brain, which stops sending messages to the autonomic nervous system to breathe while you sleep. Central sleep apnea is usually the result of an illness.
- Complex: The complex form of sleep apnea combines the other two forms, obstructive and central.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
The most common symptoms of sleep apnea is fatigue, even after a night of sleep. The second is snoring and for most people, it's snoring loudly. Other possible symptoms are shortness of breath, insomnia, and headaches upon waking.
Without proper treatment, sleep apnea can contribute to the development of high blood pressure, heart disease, and weight gain. It can also lead to increased risk of liver problems, type II diabetes, and other complications.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
Doctors will often order a CPAP machine as a treatment for sleep apnea, which can improve the quality of your sleep. A CPAP machine, short for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, works using a small fan to push air into your airways continuously during the night.
Other options to correct sleep apnea include surgery, weight loss, sleep apnea pillows, or dental appliances to wear while you sleep. Follow your doctor's treatment plan exactly as it is prescribed. The insurance company will want to see that you are compliant with the treatments and have done everything possible to correct or mitigate your condition.
Am I Eligible for Disability Benefits?
Your doctor should provide your diagnosis of sleep apnea in writing as part of your claim. As mentioned before, being compliant with your physician's treatment plan is crucial and will strengthen your claim for disability benefits. You must also prove the following:
- Your sleep apnea is severe
- Your condition has not responded to prescribed treatment
- You have a disabling impairment
Proving your eligibility for a sleep apnea disability benefits can be difficult because it's a condition that is largely self-reported. Ask your doctor for a Residual Functional Capacity, or RFC, report. The information on the report will help you quantify the effects of your sleep apnea for the insurance company.
When you fill out your claim, include details about the field in which you work if it puts you at a high risk of injury due to your sleep apnea. These may include transportation such as a bus or truck driver, machinist, construction worker, etc.
You may also want to consider participating in a sleep study called a polysomnogram. The study will provide objective details about your breathing patterns while you sleep.
How to File an Appeal If Your Claim Is Denied
If your claim for sleep apnea disability benefits is denied, you have the right to appeal the decision with your insurance company. The assistance of an experienced disability attorney can make the difference between winning and losing an appeal.
You will receive a letter with the details of your claim denial. Read this letter carefully. It should tell you why your claim was denied and outline what you have to do to file an appeal. It is particularly important to note the filing deadlines. If you fail to meet the deadlines, your appeal may be denied.
For Questions About Your Sleep Apnea Disability Claim
Is sleep apnea a disability? It can be, but proving it to the insurance company could be an uphill battle. At CJ Henry Law Firm PLLC we can help you determine your eligibility for long-term disability benefits, as well as help you with a claim or appeal. Contact us today to learn more.