Sleep apnea is a severe medical condition that can cause chronic exhaustion. If your sleep apnea is severe enough, it may prevent you from holding a job. That’s where Social Security disability may help. This federal government program benefits sleep apnea sufferers who meet specific symptom requirements. Let’s look at whether or not you may be eligible for Social Security disability and how new treatments for sleep apnea may help you.

What is Sleep Apnea? What are the Symptoms?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs when your breathing pauses during sleep. This breathing interruption can cause you to snore, gasp for air, or experience prolonged pauses in your breathing. Sleep apnea can also cause chronic fatigue, insomnia, and daytime drowsiness.

There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA):

  • Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common type, occurring when your airway has physical blockages during sleep. 
  • Central sleep apnea is less common, occurring when your brain doesn’t send signals to your muscles to breathe. 
  • Complex sleep apnea is what doctors call suffering from both types of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a severe medical condition that can have long-term health consequences. If left untreated, it can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. It is essential to seek medical treatment if you think you may suffer from sleep apnea.

What Are the Causes of Sleep Apnea & How is It Treated?

Several factors can contribute to sleep apnea, including:

  • Overweight or obese
  • Large neck size
  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol or sedatives
  • Nasal congestion

While there is no cure for sleep apnea, there are treatments that can help you manage the condition. In some cases, lifestyle changes such as losing weight or quitting smoking may help to improve your symptoms.

If lifestyle changes don’t help, your doctor may recommend using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. This machine helps to keep your airway open during sleep.

Another option is a same-day procedure that places a small device to help you breathe while you sleep at night. The Inspire device comes with a remote that you turn on before going to bed. Inspire stimulates a specific nerve that helps open your airways when you need to breathe. This newer FDA-approved treatment for sleep apnea is growing in popularity.

Other more in-depth surgeries are also an option in some cases but are typically only recommended if other treatments haven’t worked.

How Does Social Security Disability Help Sleep Apnea Sufferers?

If your sleep apnea is severe enough, it may prevent you from working. If this is the case, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. To qualify for benefits, you must meet specific requirements.

First, you must have worked in jobs covered by Social Security. Second, you must have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability. Lastly, your medical records must conclude that your state of health will last at least one year or result in death.

Some of the benefits you could expect to receive from SSD include:

  • Monthly cash benefit
  • Health insurance through Medicare
  • Tax benefits
  • Access to free or low-cost medical care

Is Sleep Apnea a Disability?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not recognize sleep apnea as a disability. However, if you suffer from severe enough sleep apnea, you may meet eligibility standards with the other symptoms resulting from your sleep apnea.

To qualify for benefits, you must meet SSD’s definition of disabled. Their definition includes these conditions:

  • Your symptoms must prevent you from working or earning a living
  • You must have suffered from your disability for at least 12 months in the past, or doctors expect you to have a disability for at least 12 months.

How Could I Potentially Qualify for SSD with a Sleep Apnea Disorder?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) includes breathing disorders, heart problems, and mental issues in its listing. If you meet the criteria of an SSD listing because of your sleep apnea, you could qualify for disability benefits.

You may qualify for SSD if your symptoms from sleep apnea cause the complications within these SSD listings:

3.09 Chronic pulmonary hypertension: You can qualify if your mean pulmonary artery pressure is equal to or greater than 40 mm Hg. Your doctor can do a cardiac catheterization to show that this is a stable condition for you.

4.02 Chronic heart failure/cor pulmonale (right-sided heart failure): You’ll need evidence to show that you have chronic heart failure. Evidence may include medical history and physical examination describing your:

  • Symptoms and signs of pulmonary congestion
  • Symptoms and signs of systemic congestion
  • Limited cardiac output with abnormal findings on medical imaging

12.02 Severe cognitive deficits, mood disturbances, or behavioral issues: Neurocognitive disorders, including cognitive decline caused by mental issues like intellectual difficulties or memory problems. To qualify for benefits under this listing, you must show that your condition has caused severe, documented issues with 

  • memory
  • paying attention
  • judgment
  • planning
  • using language
  • interacting socially (1)

If you think you may be eligible for SSD, the best way to find out is to contact your local Social Security office. The staff there can help you determine if you meet the requirements for benefits. They can also help you file a claim if you decide to apply.

We Can Help

If you believe your sleep apnea is severe enough to disrupt your daily work life, schedule an appointment with our Ear, Nose, and Throat specialists at Enticare. We can help with the diagnosis process for the medical requirements to qualify for SSD.

Alternatively, we can help you find new ways to treat your sleep apnea. If CPAP and BiPAP do not work for your sleep apnea, we can recommend new treatments for sleep apnea, such as Inspire, that may help you live with energy again! Our board-certified surgeons may also perform corrective surgeries on the tissues in your throat or mouth to help you breathe easy at night. Set up an appointment today and start finding out your next steps.

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