Sleep Apnea: Is it a Disability?

You stop breathing multiple times a night and you are drowsy during the day. Your doctor has diagnosed you with sleep apnea, and since the sleep apnea makes you tired and interferes with your ability to work, you may be wondering if the Social Security Administration (SSA) will consider it a disability and approve your application for disability benefits.

It All Depends

A diagnosis of sleep apnea will not in and of itself allow you to collect Social Security disability. Instead, you are going to have to prove that you qualify for Social Security disability because:

  • You can’t work. If you are so tired that can’t work, the SSA will assess your residual functional capacity (RFC). To determine your RFC, the SSA will consider your doctor’s determination of how your sleep apnea impacts your ability to work, your education level, your age, your work experience, and what kind of jobs you may be qualified to do. If the SSA determines that your sleep apnea makes it so that there is no work you can reasonably do, you may qualify for Social Security benefits.
  • You suffered a consequence of sleep apnea that is included in the Listing of Impairments. Sleep apnea can result in serious health consequences such as heart attacks, strokes, heart disease, high blood pressure and other conditions. If you suffer a health consequence that is included in the Listing of Impairments, you may qualify for benefits that way.

Additionally, you are going to have to show the SSA that you are following your doctor’s orders and that you are getting treatment for your sleep apnea and any related conditions unless you have a valid reason for refusing treatment.

It isn’t always easy to convince the SSA that you should receive Social Security disability benefits for sleep apnea. However, if you truly can’t work, it is worth finding out more about Social Security disability eligibility and protecting your rights.

Carl M. Weisbrod
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Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law