Patients with sleep apnea may be unable to work because of their disease and its related complications. Patients who find themselves unable to work because of their sleep apnea may qualify for long term disability (LTD) benefits. The insurance company will review their claim to see if they qualify under the conditions of that plan.
How Sleep Apnea Affects You
Sleep apnea is a disability that causes you to stop breathing repeatedly during sleep. In a standard six to eight-hour period of sleep, one with sleep apnea will periodically stop breathing, as long as up to a minute at a time.
Breathing will start again after a while, and may be accompanied by a loud noise (snoring).
Cause of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea may be caused when the air passages are blocked, which may be due to a collapse in tissue in the back of the throat.
Effect of Sleep Apnea
The body is deprived of oxygen while the brain tries to get air flowing again. The sleeper may have shallow sleep, waking up feeling unrefreshed. Because the quality of sleep is drastically reduced and because the individual may have awakened numerous times throughout the night, those suffering from sleep apnea may still feel tired despite a full night’s sleep. As a result, the individual may fall asleep during waking hours because he or she did not get sufficient rest due to sleep apnea.
Types of Sleep Apnea
There are three major types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea. This is the most common. Muscles in the back of the throat will relax and block the air passage;
- Central sleep apnea. With this type of sleep apnea, the brain stops sending messages to breathe while sleeping. This type usually results from an illness; and
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome. This is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apneas.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Two of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea are snoring and feeling tired after a night of sleep. Snoring can obviously interfere with relationships. Sleep apnea has been known to cause lost productivity at work, workplace accidents, and traffic and automobile accidents.
Other symptoms of sleep apnea include shortness of breath, insomnia, and a headache after waking. Many people suffer from the symptoms of sleep apnea for many years, and some experience them for life. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, sleep apnea affects more than 18 million U.S. citizens.
Other Effects of Sleep Apnea
If left untreated, sleep apnea can contribute to causing other medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and weight gain.
Sleep Apnea and Long Term Disability Benefits
Some individuals with sleep apnea may qualify for long term disability benefits due to a reduced Residual Functional Capacity, or RFC.
You can quantify your RFC for the insurance company by asking your doctor to fill out an Attending Physician Statement (APS) form or RFC. The answers on an APS or RFC form will help establish that you are not able to work due to your sleep apnea, its symptoms, and the effects of those symptoms in your life.
For example, those who suffer from sleep apnea may show up to work more tired than other employees and will therefore have a higher risk of mistakes and incidents. This type of fatigue should be taken into consideration when filling out the form.
Sleep apnea could especially affect those who work in the transportation field, such as truck and bus drivers, as well as with train conductors and others who need to be alert to transport people and items safely.
Establishing a Claim For Sleep Apnea
As with any diagnosis, it is important to establish an actual diagnosis of sleep apnea in a claim for long term disability benefits. To diagnose sleep apnea, for example, your doctor may give you a polysomnogram, which is a sleep study that will transmit details regarding breathing patterns and other information while you sleep.
Appealing a Denial for Disability Benefits
If you have a severe case of sleep apnea and a long term disability insurance company has denied your claim for benefits, you should contact a long term disability attorney.
Working with an experienced disability attorney will give you the best chance of getting the benefits you deserve for your sleep apnea. Even if you have been denied benefits, that does not mean your fight is over. Many people are denied benefits the first time they apply. You have the right to file an appeal and try to get more information that may help your case. Getting expert help is often the difference between being denied and being approved for benefits.
While the process can be daunting, your experienced disability attorney will be able to guide you through the process. They do not get paid until you win your case. You can seek help without worrying about upfront costs or unexpected bills.
The Ortiz Law Firm has successfully represented people in disability cases across the United States. If you would like to talk to an experienced disability lawyer about your sleep apnea and its impact on your ability to work, call us at (888) 321-8131. We would be happy to evaluate your case and to discuss how to help you through the appeal process.