Is Sleep Apnea a Disability?

Is Sleep Apnea a Disability?

Is sleep apnea a disability?

Sometimes the guidelines regarding whether you qualify for SSI or SSDI can be confusing.

Some disabilities, Sleep Apnea, for instance, are not always straight to the point.

Is Sleep Apnea a Disability?

Sleep Apnea happens to be one of those disabilities that can fall into different categories.  In particular, the aspects surrounding severity and cause.  Either or both of these could be relevant to your disability case, even minus the apnea.

Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes momentary loss of your ability to breathe properly or to use respiratory muscles while you are asleep. This can happen from ten to thirty seconds at a time and can happen many times throughout the night. 

Sleep apnea often causes those who suffer from it to lose countless hours of sleep and wake in the morning still feeling tired. This may seem minor; however, can cause serious hazards if it goes undiagnosed. Not only will sleep apnea affect your mood, memory, and alertness, but you are also at greater risk of falling asleep at awkward or even dangerous times, such as while in conversation or while driving.

Moreover, chronic sleep apnea is often a contributing factor to high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, and heart disease.

There are two types of sleep apnea:

Obstructive: When your airways are being blocked. Airways can be blocked when the body is relaxed by your throat muscles, tongue, tonsils, uvula or fatty tissue.

Central: This is a more rare form of sleep apnea and is caused by the central nervous system and when the proper signals aren’t sent from your brain to the muscles in control of your breathing.

How Will I Know if My Sleep Apnea Qualifies?

When you apply for social security, your disability will be evaluated under a five-step process to determine if you are eligible or not. An examiner will work with a physician and at the hearing, a decision will be made.

  1. The first step is to meet the nonmedical thresholds.  You cannot even be considered to receive benefits if you do not meet these criteria. Basically, if you make more than a certain amount of money in employed work, you will not be approved.
  2. Second, the SSA via a medical professional will determine if your sleep apnea is considered severe, or otherwise detrimental to your ability to do employment type activity. Your attorney can help with this part as you may need to gather all medical evidence as well as fill out any questionnaires
  3. Third, your sleep apnea will be evaluated to see if you land under social security’s “listing of impairments”. There are fourteen separate categories, and sleeping disorders typically land in the third “respiratory system impairments.”
  4. Fourth your work history will be looked into, and it will be determined if you can perform at any of your previous jobs.
  5. Finally, your age, work experience, and education will be considered to see if any other jobs would be available to you.

In Brief Summary..

Is sleep apnea a disability? Technically yes, but how it affects you on a day to day basis is every bit as important (perhaps more so) than the diagnosis in the first place.  

If you believe you have sleep apnea, or you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and are applying for Social Security disability benefits, contact us for help today. 

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Can You Win a Disability Claim for Meniere Disease in Spokane, WA?

Can You Win a Disability Claim for Meniere Disease in Spokane, WA?

If you have Meniere Disease and are finding it hard to work, you may qualify for Meniere Disease Disability Benefits.

In fact, depending on the severity of your symptoms and if you meet the SSA requirements, you may automatically qualify.

What Meniere Disease is

Meniere Disease is a disorder of the inner ear (vestibular labyrinth) which is the area that controls your balance and positional awareness.  If you have Meniere Disease, you do not constantly have symptoms, but rather attacks that come on quickly and without warning.  These attacks include extreme vertigo, hearing loss, and a full feeling in your ear.  Because of vertigo, you are at risk of falling and causing injuries.  With hearing loss, you may be unable to use the phone or verbally communicate because you cannot hear what is being said to you.  These attacks may happen in a short period of time, or they may be isolated incidents that happen every few years.  Most attacks are very debilitating and take several hours to recover from.

How to Automatically Qualify for Meniere Disease Disability Benefits

Meniere Disease is listed in the SSA blue book under SSA listing 2.07– disturbance of labyrinthine-vestibular function as a disability that automatically qualifies you for Social Security disability benefits.  However, to automatically qualify you must:

  1. Have both, disturbed function of vestibular labyrinth demonstrated by caloric or other vestibular tests; and hearing loss established by audiometry.
  2. Be earning less than $1180 per month (unable to engage in Substantial Gainful Activity)
  3. Have symptoms that last or are expected to last at least 12 consecutive months. Because Meniere Disease’s symptoms come and go, it is important to provide medical records from each time your symptoms occur from your primary doctor (or any other doctor that has treated your Meniere Disease) and your audiologist.

What to do if You Do Not Meet the Automatic Qualifications

Even if you do not meet the qualifications to receive Meniere Disease Benefits automatically, you should still apply for Social Security Disability.

SSA will create a residual capacity assessment (RFC) that will detail your ability to perform certain work-related activities.  Additionally, SSA will use the medical evidence that you submit and possibly ask you to see a doctor or audiologist hired by the SSA.

The RFC will look at your ability to perform basic work activities such as:

  • Walking, standing, sitting, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching, carrying or handling
  • Seeing, hearing and speaking
  • Understanding/carrying out and remembering simple instructions
  • Responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers and usual work situations
  • Dealing with changes in a routine work setting

SSA should take into consideration side effects caused by the medications you take for your Meniere Disease.

For example, your medications may cause sleepiness and fatigue.  This could impact your ability to work around or with heavy machinery.  It may also affect your reliability and productivity.  If you can prove that your productivity is ~20% less than what it was before your Meniere Disease diagnosis, then you may be found disabled.

After your RFC is created, the SSA will use a formula to decide whether your RFC and your vocational factors put you in the disabled category.

You Can Get Help!

If you have Meniere Disease and are not sure if you should apply for Social Security Disability, please contact us.  We want to help!  If you have been denied, you should file an appeal, asap.  We will show you how.

Get Help With Meniere Disease Disability Claims!

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Four Examples of Sedentary Work And Why They May Not Apply to You

Four Examples of Sedentary Work And Why They May Not Apply to You

In order to win your appeal for Social Security disability, you must prove that your limitations from injury or illness prevent you from not only doing your recent job but any job that is also less demanding but within your ability to do. 

This is difficult, especially for younger people.  Social Security believes that younger claimants can adjust to sit down jobs even if they have an impairment. 

However, if you can prove that you can do less than sedentary work, you will have a great shot at winning your appeal for Social Security disability. 

Sedentary Work As an Alternative to Social Security Disability

Generally speaking, the following are going to be strong indicators that you can perform sedentary work:

  • You can lift more than ten pounds
  • You can stand or walk for more than a total of 2 hours combined
  • You can sit for 6 hours out of an 8 hour work day

If you can do a minimum of these three tasks on a daily basis, the Social Security Administration is going to be seeking to understand why you are unable to work, even at a reduced rate.  You should start making note of your specific limitations and how they might help you counter these questions.

Limitations That Might Prevent you to Perform Sedentary Work

Physical exertional limitations

  • Inability to do any of the above mentioned skills
  • Need the use of medical devices to help walk
  • Need to have leg elevated
  • Unable to use an arm due to amputation above the elbow

Non-exertional limitations

  • Needing to alternate sitting and standing
  • Need to rest or lie down
  • Cannot stoop or bend
  • Reduced ability to use hands and fingers
  • Need to take frequent sick days
  • Cannot balance (even on smooth surfaces)
  • Visual limitation
  • Cannot work in noise

Cognitive or Behavioral Health limitations that can affect the ability to do Sedentary work

  • Inability to focus and concentrate due to a prescribed pain medication
  • Difficulty performing simple, routine, unskilled tasks
  • Interference with completing tasks on time
  • Cannot get along with others or cannot respond appropriately to authority

In your disability appeal, the SSA will consult with a vocational expert (VE).  A vocational expert knows about job availability and the skills need to perform those jobs.  The VE will most likely be able to find jobs that you can still do, regardless of your condition; however, a seasoned and effective Social Security Disability Attorney will be able to push back and give you a stronger chance for overcoming the appeal than if you decide to do it yourself.

Four Examples of Sedentary Work

Example 1:

You are a 36-year-old who was a machinist for the past fifteen years.  You were in a car accident that caused a severe back injury, and you are unable to perform your job.  You can no longer lift more than 10 pounds.  When you applied for Social Security, you were denied because they said that you could perform sedentary work.  The vocational expert says that you can work as an administrative assistant.  However, this does not apply to you because you need to change sitting and standing positions every hour or you are in excruciating pain. 

Example 2:

You are a 52-year-old who was a teacher for the past 30 years.  You fell down the stairs and broke your leg in multiple places.  You had to have surgery and now need to take pain medication on a regular basis to function.  You can no longer stand long enough to teach, so you are unable to work anymore.  When you applied to Social Security for disability, you were denied due to your ability to perform sedentary work.  Your pain medications, however, cause you to be unable to focus or concentrate and complete a task in a timely manner. 

Example 3:

You are a 62-year-old woodworker.  You have been building cabinets since you were in your early twenties.  You have no formal education, only a high school diploma. You broke your back in an ATV accident when you were in your forties.  This caused lymphatic damage which turned into lymphodema causing your legs to swell and have poor circulation.  If you bump your leg, it breaks open easily and gets infected, so you can no longer work around wood and tools that can cause injury.  You also have a very difficult standing and lifting.  You applied for Social Security disability but were denied.  You were deemed able to perform sedentary work.  However, the medication that you are taking causes you to become dizzy and at times almost pass out.  You cannot bend without almost falling because you cannot balance. 

Example 4:

You are a 45-year-old, and you were a concrete worker. You hurt your back and can’t work anymore. You help out your wife at your home business by filing documents, answering calls, and responding to emails. You apply for Social Security and get denied.  Even though you do not get paid, Social Security determines that if you were getting paid you would make SGA and you are capable of performing sedentary work.  However, you use a script when answering the phone because your head is fuzzy from medications. You also only work about two hours during the day because you need to lie down and take a break because your back hurts so much.  

In all four examples, you were told that you were able to perform sedentary work, but again in all four examples, sedentary work did not necessarily apply to you.  In these cases, and similar situations, you want to contact a disability attorney asap to help you prove that you are unable to perform sedentary work.

Work With a Social Security Attorney Today

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How to Appeal A Denial for Social Security Disability in Washington State

How to Appeal A Denial for Social Security Disability in Washington State

Applying for Social Security in Washington State can be an overwhelming process. 

If you are one of the greater than 70% of those who are initially denied your claim, it can be devastating, and your path to getting the benefits you have earned can be hard to see. 

What should you do?  Who can help you? This article was written to give you some clarity.

The first step is calm down, take a deep breath, and if needed contact a disability professional to help you. 

The first thing to know is that your denial letter should explain why you were denied and give you a list of the places social security requested and received medical evidence.  It is very common to read through these letters and be confused and frustrated.  Clearly the Social Security Administration missed the mark somewhere; otherwise, you would not even be reading this article.  Nevertheless – you should familiarize yourself with their statements and prepare yourself for your appeal options.  

Here are your four appeal levels for Social Security in Washington State.

Request for Reconsideration

With your denial letter in hand, you now have 60 days (plus five days for mailing) from the date you received your denial notice to complete a request for reconsideration form and return it to the Social Security address listed in your letter.  You can do this either by mail or by dropping it off at your local Social Security office.   Here is a handy tool to locate Social Security offices in Washington State.

If you were denied because the Social Security Administration did not determine you to be disabled, ask to see what medical evidence they have in your file. When filing your request for reconsideration, you should seek to include as much of the following as possible with your request for reconsideration form:

  • Letter from your doctor stating why he believes you are disabled
  • Letter from friends or family stating how your disability has affected your day to day activities
  • Additional medical evidence that was not originally included in your claim

You do not need to be present for the reconsideration.

And remember, if you are denied because Social Security believes you no longer have a disability, you do have the option to meet with a Washington State Social Security representative to explain you still have a disability.

Talk About Your Social Security Denial With A Disability Lawyer Today

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Disability Hearing

If your request for reconsideration is denied, then you can request a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Typically, the time between your request and the hearing is 1-2 years, though this timeline can vary widely depending on where you live.  In Spokane, WA – the timeline for disability hearings was 487 days as of the date this article was written.  It is important for you to attend the hearing and bring your representative (if you have one).

Other witnesses, such as medical or vocational experts will likely testify for Social Security.  You or your attorney representative will be able to ask them questions during the hearing and make a strong case for your disability is a barrier to employability.

After the hearing, the judge will make a decision, and you will receive a letter and copy of the decision.

Review by the Appeals Council

If you disagree with the decision made by the judge on your appeal, you can ask for the decision on your claim to be reviewed by the Appeals Council.  At this point, if you have not used a Social Security Disability attorney, it is necessary to start consulting with one.

In short, the Appeals Council will look at your request and decide if they agree with the hearing decision – the decision of the judge based on the evidence provided.

If they believe the ALJ (administrative law judge) decision was correct, then the judge’s decision will be upheld.

If the appeals council believes there was an error in the ALJ’s decision, they may remand your claim back to another administrative law judge for another appeals hearing.

And, rarely, but it does happen – the Appeals Council will overturn a denied claim if they believe the judge’s decision was completely in error. This action would result in an approved disability claim.

Here is data on the Appeals Council Requests for Review so you can get an idea of their backlog.

Federal Court Review

If you do not agree with the Appeals Council, you can file a lawsuit in the Federal District Court.  In the letter sent to you about the Appeals Council decision, you will find information on how to file with the federal court.  You will need an attorney at this point, in any case.  They should be aware of the process of filing a federal district court lawsuit.