What to Know About Sleep Disorders and Social Security Disability

There is no question that sleep disorders can be debilitating. The daytime sleepiness and fatigue common to sleep disorders can cause both physical and emotional issues. A lack of good quality sleep can impact productivity at school or work.1-2

Depending on which sleep disorder you have, it may prevent you from being able to perform your daily living activities and your job duties. When this happens, you may find yourself wanting and needing to apply for disability benefits. The federal Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs are available to those with disabilities.3

In order to prove your disability, you will have to go through a process and apply. Let’s explore the ins and outs of a sleep disorder as a disability.

Determining your disability rights

Unfortunately, the definition of disability is not widely accepted by all. Both the legal and medical systems can be complicated. The important thing for you to understand is that applying for disability benefits is a process. The legal and medical systems have to define your condition as disabling in order for you to get the benefits owed to you.

Types of disability benefits

You may qualify for short-term disability through your job if you are still employed. Long-term disability benefits are offered through the federal government. These are administered through the Social Security Administration (SSA).

There are two different disability insurances administered by the SSA:4

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays benefits to you if you have worked long enough and have paid Social Security taxes.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pays benefits based on your financial need.

Applying for disability due to a sleep disorder

After you apply for disability insurance, Social Security Administration (SSA) will ask to get your medical records from your doctor. The SSA doctor will review your records and decide what limitations your sleep disorder has on your daily life and your ability to work. More doctors may need to be consulted.

The process can take some time. You may or may not be approved during the initial review of your medical records. This does not mean you will not eventually get approved. In fact, a majority of people get approved after the initial review. You may have to attend a legal hearing to get your final approval of disability.5

Determining the severity of your symptoms

The doctor who reviews your medical records will be looking for certain things in order to decide your eligibility for disability benefits. These include:

  • A documented diagnosis from your doctor
  • Detail of how long your symptoms have lasted and how severe your symptoms are
  • Documented symptoms even after following a medication treatment plan
  • Details of how your sleep disorder gets in the way of your daily living

Keep in mind that SSA does not list most sleep disorders as a disabling condition. This is why it is very important that you can document the severity of impact on your daily living.1

Getting the help you need to apply for disability benefits

You may need help applying for disability benefits. It is important that your application is complete and has the required documents. Make sure and talk to your doctor about your desire for disability benefits. Your doctor can help you fill out the application. You may also want to look into hiring an attorney. Disability attorneys only get paid if you win the case and if the legal system determines you are owed back pay.1,5

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Written by: Jessica Johns Pool | Last reviewed: June 2020