American military veterans are vulnerable to many life-altering disorders. Veterans suffering from sleep apnea may be eligible to receive service-connected VA disability benefits. In fact, more recent research has helped establish the many ways in which veterans can prove their sleep apnea may be linked to their time in the military. Whether on a direct basis or secondary to another service-connected condition (such as an in-service injury or PTSD, for example), there are many ways that you can prove a service connection for sleep apnea.
Qualified VA disability attorneys work with deserving veterans, and doctors ( such as pulmonologists and respiratory specialists), to secure disability benefits for sleep apnea. To help you understand more about sleep apnea and your VA disability rating, let’s explore a bit further.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a relatively common but serious condition characterized by interruptions in your breathing pattern while sleeping. There are three primary types of sleep apnea, the most common being obstructive, then central, and finally complex:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the result of your throat muscles intermittently relaxing and blocking your airway while you sleep.
- Central Sleep Apnea occurs when your brain fails to send the proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing.
- Complex Sleep Apnea is a combination of both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
All three sleep apnea types can impair your daily functions. Sleep apnea also leads to other severe and life-threatening health conditions, including high blood pressure, metabolic disorders, liver disease, and type-2 diabetes.
Veterans should be particularly alert to sleep apnea symptoms, as the disorder affects them at a disproportionately higher rate than members of the general civilian population. Unfortunately, many veterans are not aware that they could have a viable claim for service-connection for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) or the other types that can commonly occur in veterans. Thankfully, medical research and scientific data continue to widely support service connection which can help veterans prove their case and seek the highest VA disability rating under the law.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
While many sleep apnea symptoms may be mild, the ongoing recurrence or worsening of these symptoms warrant further investigation of their cause and effects through a sleep study. In fact, veterans seeking to file a claim for sleep apnea disability benefits will be required to submit a sleep study medical diagnosis of their condition.
Sleep apnea symptoms include:
- Dry mouth
- Morning headaches
- Interrupted breathing during sleep
- Excessive daytime tiredness
- Anger and Irritability
If you’re a veteran experiencing any of these symptoms, reach out to your doctor for help and inquire about sleep studies to determine if you have sleep apnea.
Filing a Sleep Apnea Claim for VA Benefits
Military veterans suffering from sleep apnea may be eligible for VA benefits. A veteran’s disability benefits attorney can guide you through the necessary steps to file a claim successfully.
Three conditions of proof must be met for a viable VA sleep apnea claim:
- Diagnosis of sleep apnea from sleep study administered by a qualified medical professional;
- The sleep apnea condition started or worsened during active service;
- Your current diagnosis and in-service event are connected.
If your sleep apnea did not develop during or worsen as a result of active service, you might still be eligible for benefits under a secondary claim.
Secondary Sleep Apnea Claims require:
- A medical diagnosis confirmed by a sleep study in VA or private medical records;
- Evidence of a service-connected primary disability; and
- Medical evidence establishing a connection between the service-related disability and the current disability.
Your attorney will organize and prepare all evidence supporting these elements for your disability claim. While the VA initially denies most claims, many cases are won on appeal when the above criteria are met.
Sleep Apnea, Your VA Disability Rating, and Benefits
The benefits you receive for a sleep apnea disability are tied to your sleep apnea VA disability rating. There are four different VA sleep apnea ratings as cited in Title 38, Code of Federal Regulation, Section 4.97.
- 0 percent VA rating asymptomatic (no symptoms), but with documented sleep disorder breathing.
- 30 percent VA rating with persistent daytime hypersomnolence, but in the absence of a breathing device
- 50% VA rating if the use of breathing assistance devices are required, i.e., Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) or Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP)
- 100 percent VA rating for chronic respiratory failure with carbon dioxide retention, cor pulmonale, or requires tracheostomy
Filing for VA Sleep Apnea Benefits? Consult with a VA Disability Attorney
The Veterans’ Affairs Administration recognizes sleep apnea as a debilitating condition that warrants disability support. However, navigating the requirements of the claims and appeals process is challenging at best.
If you are a veteran suffering from sleep apnea, you need help to file a successful VA disability claim.
Reach out to our legal team today to speak with an experienced VA disability attorney for assistance with your VA sleep apnea claim or appeal.