Asleep At The Wheel: Sleep Apnea And Social Security

20 July 2018
 Categories: Law, Blog


The value of getting a good night's sleep is undisputed. When you've not had enough sleep it can affect almost everything about your concentration and even affect your heart health. If you've been diagnosed with sleep apnea by your doctor you may qualify for Social Security benefits if you find yourself unable to work as a result. Read on to learn more.

More than just a minor annoyance

During sleep, the flow of air can temporarily stop in people afflicted with this disorder and it can cause dangerous carbon dioxide levels to rise. It may also cause sufferers to wake continuously and make them more sleepy during the day. While being sleepy, moody and distracted can affect your ability to work, it is the way this disorder affects your heart that is most concerning. High blood pressure, congestive heart failure, heart attacks and strokes can result from untreated sleep apnea.

Does sleep apnea affect your work?

To get Social Security benefits for sleep apnea you will need to show how it affects your ability to work. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses residual functioning capacity (RFC), which is a test that compares your medical condition to the level of work that you must do for your current job.

For benefits to be approved, it must be clear that you can no longer do the minimum level of work required for your job. For example, your ability to drive can be severely impacted by sleep apnea and falling asleep at the wheel is a dangerous possibility. If you have been ordered by your doctor not to drive or operate large or dangerous machinery and your job involves doing just that then you may be able to qualify for benefits.

Other related conditions

While sleep apnea alone may qualify you if it's severe enough, your chances of getting approved for benefits can be greater if you can also show a concurrent medical condition caused by the complications of the disease. There are several related medical conditions that appear on the list of approved disorders, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, narcolepsy, cognitive impairments and more.

Getting proof of your disorder

The SSA needs to see documented proof of your condition so be sure you seek medical attention and stay in treatment. A combination of your doctor's evaluation and notes, diagnostic test results and your medical records will be required before you are approved.

Unfortunately, even those that make every effort when filling out their applications can end up getting denied benefits. You are allowed to appeal this ruling and doing so with the help of a Social Security attorney is highly advised.